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Suffering cinemas fight back by targetting niche audiences

By Rachael Williams

Many smaller Lower Austrian cinemas which are fighting for survival as a result of low attendance will revamp their image in a bid to bring back punters.

Cinema attendance in the region has fallen significantly, with smaller cinemas currently filling only 5 per cent of seats on average. Many of Lower Austria’s 25 cinemas have chosen to take on new concepts and appeal to niche markets in order to compete with larger cinemas.

One example of such a concept cinema is the „Sofakino" in Mödling, where the Kilgus family have created a laid back setting for people to watch less recent films in the company of others.

Geraldine Kilgus said: "We show films you could actually watch alone at home, but it is clear that people like to come together and as soon as one person starts to laugh, so does another, then another. That is so much nicer than staying at home and laughing to yourself... We now have a license which enables us to play DVD’s and this means that we don’t charge entrance fees."

For "Sofakino" the license costs around 800 Euro per year and the cinema pays for this out of profits from the sale of additional goods. Punters must pay 20 Euro for a sofa from which they can enjoy the onscreen action. The cinema shows one film per month and receives a full house.

In contrast, the Beethoven cinema is hardly ever full. It shows the latest blockbusters and despite being the only cinema in Baden, it is in competition with the nearby multiscreen cinema at SCS in the south of Vienna.

An initiative started by Baden businessman Michael Göbharter to save the Beethoven cinema has received such strong backing that 150,000 Euro has been raised in pre-financing.

However, it is not yet clear whether the Beethoven cinema will be taken over or whether a new location will be found in Baden for a new cinema. The new cinema would most likely be an independent cinema, despite the fact that the independent cinema 20 minutes away in Berndorf is scheduled for closure the middle of January 2013 due to low cinema attendance.

Chairman of the Lower Austrian Cinema Committee for the Chamber of Commerce Franz Lampesberger said: "Smaller cinemas must look for niches in order to establish themselves, but independent cinemas are not successful everywhere."

The owners of Cineplexx are now planning a travelling circus cinema in Baden and they are optimistic that it will not succumb to the same fate as the independent cinema in Berndorf. Leader of the Baden Cinema Initiative Michael Göbharter said: "We are also planning late-night showings, ladies’  and men’s nights and there is also a trend for opera in cinema."

There are also extensive plans to develop a large cinema and events venue in Allentsteig, Lower Austria. Although it is currently a building site, work is expected to finish within the next year.

Remnants of the previous cinema will remain and up to 400,000 Euro still needs to be invested in the project. Reinhard Pölzl from the cultural organisation Alive is confident that the project will bring cinema audiences flocking to Allensteig.

Pölzl said: „At the moment we have 29 cultural groups interested in this project... As long as something happens, it will not depend on the number of visitors whether the project is a success or not."

Vienna Times

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