New face of Copenhagen’s Cinemas
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The 70mm Newsletter
Written and photographed by:
This article was first published in Cinema
Technology, March 2002.
Reprinted with permission from Jim Slater.
Date November 30, 2003
This article from Cinema Technology, March 2002, updates the first article about the cinemas of
Copenhagen appeared in Cinema Technology in March 2001. It’s time for a
little update due to the dramatic changes, which have happened, in the last
year, reflecting changes in distribution and attendance performance, some of
which will also apply in other cities as well.
2001 proved to be a very tough year for the German CinemaxX group in
Denmark. In late 2000 CinemaxX had very aggressive plans for Denmark with
projects in Copenhagen, Odense (Closed), Århus (planned 2003 opening) and
Aalborg. At this point, only Copenhagen is up and running and in Århus, the
rumour goes, they will do what they can to get out of the engagement. With a
record loss of 19.1 million Danish kroner (2,3 million USD) for the first 4
months (of 2001), all CinemaxX’s remaining Danish cinemas are now for
sale. In September 2000 their first 7-screen cinema opened in Odense. It was
less than a kilometre from the 9-screen BioCity managed by Nordisk Film. The
cinema in Odense proved to be a financial disaster, and the 7 screens had to
close again by the end of July 2001, less than a year after the opening. The
shopping centre was always empty except for the cinema and now it is
rumoured that IKEA will take over the building.
A month after the Odense opening, the 3118-seats/10-screen complex opened at
Fisketorvet, slightly outside Copenhagen city centre. There are speculations
that possibly Nordisk Film or Sandrew/Metronome, the main competitors, will
take over their screens (Source Politiken: July, 26, 2001). It’s highly
unlikely, however, as the rent is far too high (It’s a public secret that
CinemaxX’s annual rent at Fisketorvet is in the neighbourhood to 20
million Danish kroner, but please keep this to your self). In the event
someone would buy the cinemas, the contract should be re-negotiated, if the
cinemas are ever to make a profit.
More in 70mm reading:
Cinemas of Copenhagen - An in
depth look at all the screens
PDF: New face of Copenhagen’s Cinemas
Closure of the Scala
Another sad story from central Copenhagen was the closure of the excellent
7-screen Scala cinemas in central Copenhagen. In April 2001 it was announced
that Scala would close by the end of June 30, 2001. Scala opened March 9,
1989 and thus stayed open only 12 years. The reason for the closure was not
the intensified competition from CinemaxX and Nordisk Film, as one would
expect. Scala was located on the top floor of a shopping mall that never
became the expected success. The new owners had plans to turn the building
into a hotel or office space and Sandrew/Metronome, the operators of the
cinema, decided that a cinema on the third floor would not be profitable, if
all other levels were turned into office space or a hotel. So they decided
to close it. Today, 7 months after the theatre´s closure, the Scala
shopping centre is still open with many shops and restaurants. Posters from
Scala’s last programme are still displayed on the boarded-up top floor of
the mall, like a ghost cinema. The remaining tenants all have long-tem
contracts and are reluctant to leave. Rumour has it that there are many
legal disputes with the new owners.
On the positive side, the new 4-screen “Empire Bio” (629 seats) just
outside city centre in Nørrebro is a complete success. The Empire Bio
(opened January 3, 2001) generated total audience patronage of some 135.000
in only 7 months! The style is that of a local cinema with high-tech
screens, set to the industry’s highest standards for sound and image. To
begin with there was a no-commercial/adverts policy, but I believe they have
abandoned that now. Unlike the cinemas in the city centre, the show times
are different. Usually films in the city are shown at 12, 14:20, 16:40, 19
and 21:30. Empire Bio show times are typically 12:30, 15, 17:30, 20:00 and
22:30. The evening performances are very popular and you will often find
performances to be sold-out. Empire Bio has already developed a certain cult
status among the locals. Apparently a total success. And I must admit it is
a nice place to go to. There are no flashing lights, no bright and noisy
foyer. It’s all kept very quiet with a good bar, nice people and excellent
Demolition of Cinerama history
For the historically-minded reader, the last trace of Cinerama became the
victim of the wrecking ball last November. Former “Kinopalæet”
(“Cinema Palace”) was demolished to make room for new office space.
Kinopalæet closed in 1981 and survived for 20 years as office space. The
name Kinopalæet was always associated with big premieres and cutting edge
technology (WideScreen, 3D, CinemaScope, 70mm and Cinerama). A few days
before demolition began I sat up a meeting with former Cinerama
projectionist, Mr. Ole S. Olsen inside the auditorium. We talked for 30
minutes about the old days and took a few pictures in front of the former
“Able” projection room. The demolishing took slightly more than a month
and I managed to take a few pictures of the final days of Kinopalæet.
Please read the whole story about Kinopalæet in a future issue of Cinema
Technology. It’s not a total disappearance, however, as the name Kinopalæet
lives on atop Sandrew/Metronome’s new (opened August 7, 2001) 7-plex
cinema in the Copenhagen suburb of Lyngby. The new Kinopalæet’s 7 screens
are built to meet the industry’s finest standards but is also experiencing
very slow business, especially in the evenings.
Cinemas after Dark
Generally speaking, Danish cinemas placed in malls/shopping centers do not
work well because nobody wants to see films there after the normal closing
time of the surrounding shops. One of the first, BioCity (Previously know as
Bio Trio), in the suburb called Taastrup, has always struggled to get an
audience for the 21:00 performances. The 19:00 performances have been fair,
but with when the area shops closing at 17:30, many do not dare to go into a
shopping centre. It’s big, empty, cold and basically un-friendly to human
beings. CinemaxX’s Fisketorvet 10-screen is particularly unpleasant if you
approach it by foot or bike as it is surrounded by the harbour, a freeway
and the railway-shunting yard. Copenhagen is generally a very safe to live
in and I don’t think there are any records of people being mugged on their
way to CinemaxX’s Fisketorvet, but it’s simply not a nice place to go to
when it’s dark.
What's Left to See?
What’s left for the enthusiast to go to in Copenhagen? Well speaking
personally; I prefer the Imperial Bio with it’s 40 year history of being a
70mm house with state-of-the-art technology etc. In recent years it has
become maybe too “flashy” or bright in the foyer for my taste, but
still, the best place to see a film. Films presented there have become far
too mainstream, however. “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the
Rings” are obvious films to show here, but it would have been nice to
experience Panavision films like “Amélie” or “Malena”
on the big screen with big sound – that didn’t happen.
Second in line in the viewing preference is probably the Grand screen #3.
Not particularly because of size or techno-foolishness, but because of the
atmosphere of the Grand. The front is nicely decorated with 3-sheet posters,
the foyer is pleasant (but small), beer is well served and I generally like
the idea of movie magazines, posters and reviews on the pin boards. The
whole place “has the smell of cinema” and a touch of Danish “hygge”
without being out of fashion or too art-cinema like. The difference is
probably because the Grand is independent.
Finally, the Dagmar #1, also a nice place to be, but a bit more streamlined
compared to the Grand, (no) thanks to the Swedish owners. Being part of a
big conglomerate of cinema and media (Owned by Sandrew/Metronome), there are
certain standards to follow about interior design; the foyer is too bright
and “stream lined” for me. On the very positive side, the snacks are
good and there are posters and, always, reviews to read. The crew are always
nice and competent and I love the big red neon light on the marquee and the
original teak woodwork inside the cinema.
Well, judge for yourself next time around. The listed favourites are fine
places to spend a couple of hours enjoying a film during your next visit to
“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen”.
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