The Astor Film Lounge became the first cinema to open last November in HafenCity and offers movie fans a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience with cloakroom, a welcoming cocktail and adjustable leather armchairs. Designed by Hans-Joachim Flebbe, the man behind multiplex cinemas across Germany and manager of Cinemaxx until 2008, the passionate cinema operator spoke to Hamburg News in an interview. At present, Flebbe operates smaller Astor cinemas with sophisticated equipment in Berlin, Cologne and Munich as well as the Berlin Zoopalast, a first Cinemaxx cinema in Hanover and the Savoy in Hamburg.
Hamburg News: How did you become involved in the cinema business?
Hans-Joachim Flebbe: The phenomenon of cinema fascinated me even as a child. But I really slid into the industry as a student in the 1970s. I suggested to the operator of the Apollo cinema in Hanover that he draw up the cinema programme himself – and it was a success.
Hamburg News: What fascinates you about cinema?
Flebbe: Films are actually made for cinemas. Only in a cinema can you feel the magic of the films – and enjoy this joint, special experience.
Hamburg News: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received as a cinema operator?
Flebbe: For me, the many supposedly “small” hints from friends and acquaintances were often crucial e.g. when they told me after a visit to the cinema what they liked – and above all what they didn’t like at all.
Hamburg News: You were born in Hanover, but have lived in Hamburg for almost 30 years. What do you like about the Hanseatic city?
Flebbe: I feel like a native of Hamburg now. This is where I’m at home. I usually notice just how I much appreciate this city, the Elbe, Alster and the special calm when I return from one of my many journeys.
Hamburg News: What makes the Astor concept stand out?
Flebbe: We want to raise the joint cinema experience. It’s not simply about watching a movie, but about focusing on the entire night out. That’s the essence of our Astor concept. In HafenCity, for instance, you can park in the cinema’s underground car park. You are welcomed by the doorman, hand in your jacket at the (free) cloakroom and receive a welcoming drink. When you take your seat in the theatre, you are served in your seat – but no nachos and cheese sauce. We want you to enjoy going out and watching the movie to the full.
Hamburg News: Why is the Astor Film Lounge in HafenCity an architectural highlight?
Flebbe: So far, we have only built our Astor Film Lounges into existing cinema properties. The cinema in Hamburg was integrated into a large overall project as a new building. And bear in mind that we are using a very powerful sound system (Dolby Atmos). Similar to the Elbphilharmonie, our cinema halls are acoustically shielded and spring-loaded so that guests in hotel rooms over us do not need earplugs.
Hamburg News: What are your plans for 2019?
Flebbe: We would like to expand our programme in Hamburg by co-operating with other cultural providers. We can also imagine broadcasting events from the Elbphilharmonie here. We will also be opening another Astor Film Lounge in Frankfurt early in summer.
Hamburg News: Thank you for the interview, Mr. Flebbe.
Interview by Sarah Bischoff
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