Herbert Born Interviewed
Schauburg Todd-AO Festival
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|Interviewed by: Thomas Hauerslev, October 2021. Transcribed by: Mark Lyndon, in70mm.com in London ||Date: 19.08.2022|
|Herbert Born in October 2021 with the framed poster from the first Todd-AO 7OMM film festival in 2005. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev|
During school Herbert Born (1954) worked as a part time projectionist at the in Elysee cinema in Aachen. After school was completed he went to Frankfurt and started a position at the German office of CINEMA INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION where he became Dubbing Manager. He left CIC in 1983 to form his own movie production company. In 2000 he returned to the roots, as he fondly calls it, when he became Manager of eight cinemas in Frankfurt, where he organized the first 70mm screenings. In 2005 he took over the SCHAUBURG in Karlsruhe.
Thomas Hauerslev: How would you describe the Schauburg Cinerama 70mm Cinema for people who do not know it?
Herbert Born: The Schauburg is a traditional cinema built in 1929, almost ninety years ago at a time when the cinemas were still big, planned for big audiences, not like the small cinemas today. Since then, The Schauburg hasn’t changed too much, of course we have new technical equipment, new seats, but the space, the big auditorium is still there like it was in the past. One of the advantages of the Schauburg is the tradition of an old cinema with a ceiling height of over 10 metres, to create that special ambience.
THa: How about the foyer? It’s very unusual in a very positive way, with that grand staircase. How was that incorporated into the design of the cinema. Did it have any special purpose?
Herbert: The Schauburg had a main parquet floor and a balcony. It was rebuilt after the war, because it was destroyed in the war. The architect at that time in 1948, decided to build this staircase using a special technique known as free flowing concrete, which was very new at that time. It was done by two quite famous architects in this area; Richard Brannath and Fritz Scholer. I think it fits quite well into the foyer, this special staircase going up into the balcony featuring a separate cinema. This staircase is also listed and we are not allowed to change it, to remove it and
make another bar.
THa: The Schauburg was rebuilt over the years and now it is a 70 mm cinema. Was it always a 70mm cinema. When did that start?
Herbert: It was not always 70mm. 70mm began in 1955 to 1956 in the States A few years later, it came to Germany. At that time, the Schauburg was not a 70mm house. It was a normal cinema with a thousand seats, an orchestra pit and a stage. The stage is still there - a normal cinema, like it was.
Herbert: Then the conversion to CinemaScope was done, it got a bigger screen, but still with an orchestra pit and the stage and so on, which was still a little bit limited. And then in 1968, the owner of The Schauburg was looking to rent it to somebody, it was also a time when business went down in Germany in 1968 and Deutsche Cinerama, the German branch of Cinerama Company, rented The Schauburg and they decided to build it into a Super Cinerama cinema, 70mm, single screen. They hired architects and on the technical side they hired Kinoton - Mr Zoller the owner of Kinoton at that time to make a 70mm cinema with Super Cinerama with a curved screen.
They did away with the orchestra pit. By that time it was not in use anymore and they put the new curved screen in front of the stage, to have it bigger and wider. Then they also put the projection room which had been upstairs over the balcony, downstairs to have the ideal conditions for screening movies without too many keystone distortions.
THa: Is that the projection room we see today?
Herbert: That is the projection room we see today
THa: What was the first film?
Herbert: "2OO1: A Space Odyssey". Not a well-known movie, almost forgotten now … yes …
THa: I know it, I just wanted to hear you say it in your own words.
Herbert: "2OO1: A Space Odyssey", they premiered it in the presence of the British Consul and there are news reports from that time. And I think it did good business. I don’t have the figures and reports anymore from that time. It ran for a couple of months.
THa: "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in the Schauburg is the special story, it was built for Cinerama and premiered with "2OO1". What happened after "2OO1" with the new screen and the new projection room? Was 70mm a special attraction at The Schauburg for many years to come?
Herbert: I think so. I don’t have exact information about what was running then. There are not too many records anymore, but Deutsche Cinerama had the cinema for about three or four years. I think they showed "Grand Prix", but I’m not sure. After three years they got into financial trouble, could not pay the rent anymore and it went back to the owner of The Schauburg then, who was Wili Mansbacher, who was a member of a cinema family in Karlsruhe, had cinemas there for many years and in 1972, four years after Cinerama took over, he sold it to Mr. Fricker.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Schauburg Cinerama, Karlsruhe, Germany. Home of The Todd-AO Festival
16. Todd-AO 70mm-Festival 2022
Summarizing the 1st Todd-AO Festival 2005
Schauburg Todd-AO Festival Archive
The Schauburg Cinerama History
All Todd-AO Festival Programs
|The Schauburg on an October evening 2021. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev|
THa: Tell me about Mr Fricker and his work with The Schauburg.
Herbert: He was at that time a young man, interested in cinema and he was interested in the technical aspect of cinemas. He had a small company, doing technical repairs, installing projectors and that kind of thing. He operated a travelling cinema which went into small towns which did not have a cinema and present a show once a month with a projector.
THa: A kind of roadshow, transportable cinema?
Herbert: Yes and he went to Mr Mansbacher and requested a small room to house his repair shop for servicing the projectors. Mr Mansbacher told him you can’t have a small room, you can have everything. So finally, Mr Mansbacher sold it to him because he saw in him a young man very enthusiastic about cinema and wanted to give him a chance to run a cinema and I think also he wanted not so much to get rid of The Schauburg, but to find a solution that he has nothing to do with it anymore.
THa: To pass it to Mr Fricker?
Herbert: Yes, that is what Mr Fricker told me.
THa: How did you know Mr Fricker?
Herbert: I knew him from the time when I was working in film distribution in the Cinema International Corporation. At that time there were no mobile phones and internet and if you were an exhibitor, you would come on Mondays to the distribution branch, make your programme and your plans with them for the coming weeks. And so he came to the Branch Office in Frankfurt, where I was working. At that time I knew him, not very well, but I knew his name and I knew he was in Karlsruhe running The Schauburg. That was when I first met him. Then I lost contact, but later when I was running a Cineplex in Frankfurt from 2002 to 2005. We were also installing 70mm. I knew that Mr Fricker was also a fan of 70mm. He was still showing it in the eighties and nineties and into the twenty first century. All other venues had stopped screening 70mm, but he was still showing it. He was still showing "2OO1" and "Die Hard" and these kinds of movies.
THa: At the Schauburg?
Herbert: Yes, at The Schauburg. It was always part of the programme there. He showed "The Wall" and whatever was available. I knew he had a nice small collection of prints, because the distributor proposed keeping the prints at The Schauburg, to play them every year or two. We will not have to pay for transport and storage in our facility. So the prints can stay here and he will pay for the screenings.
Then I came into contact with him again and we discussed 70mm and prints and he agreed to lend me a few prints for our screenings in Frankfurt. I went to Karlsruhe with a small truck and picked up the prints. While I was there, we sat down and had a coffee and talked about the business. I was in regular contact with him for more than half a year, picking up prints and bringing them back. Then he told me he wanted to rent the cinema to somebody else because he was getting to sixty-five and he wanted to retire. He liked my approach and also my ideas about 70mm. So finally he offered the cinema to me for rent and I took the opportunity.
There are not many cinemas like The Schauburg with Cinerama and Super screen to get your hands on. Of course, I did not know exactly how it would work, if you can earn money or if you can lose money. You are never sure; you must simply try it.
THa: What intrigued you into renting The Schauburg? What engaged you?
Herbert: First, I liked the cinema; I liked all the possibilities they had there to show movies. Karlsruhe is quite well known for being not being a bad city for the cinema business. I thought it may well work and I could make a living out of it and it’s also fun.
THa: When was that, in 2004 or 2005?
Herbert: Yes, we started in 2004 in September. We went into serious negotiations. We completed and signed the contract in September 2004. I stayed there for two months, to see how the business worked and to get introduced to the people working there and trying to make a smooth transition on January 1st 2005 from him to me.
THa: He retired in 2005?
Herbert: He retired in 2005 and I took over the business on January 1st. But he was still there next door to the cinema and every day he came over and had his coffee and kuchen and sat there and we talked about this and that, whether I needed any help and advice. He was very kind and gave it to me.
THa: What is it that excites you about the cinema business? I know that you had a cinema business before Schauburg and when you saw Schauburg, you said that’s good. I want to do that. What was it that tricked you into going from Frankfurt to Karlsruhe?
Herbert: In Karlsruhe, I now have a cinema which I can run on my own, not simply as a manager, but on my own. It’s my business. If it works well, it’s my profit, if not….of course I can start to try something new. In the first year we already launched the 70mm festival. Of course, it was not a financial success; but it was a success for the image of the cinema and still is. And now it is a little bit of a small financial success. But you really don’t earn much money with a 70mm Festival.
|"2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70 at the Schauburg on the 10th October 2021, for a matinee performance at 11 in the morning. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev|
THa: I remember many years ago you said it was better to spend money on a weekend like this, rather than use newspaper advertising, because of word of mouth. They will go out and tell more people.
Herbert: Yes, it’s an investment into the image of the cinema, of course not an investment into a false or wrong image, but a true image of the cinema, what we really are.
THa: How did The Todd-AO Festival? Do you remember how you got the idea to do a Todd-AO festival?
Herbert: Not exactly, but I was thinking I must do something which fits exactly to the cinema. I was very interested to show 70mm films. Now I had a cinema which can do this. I was thinking why not put together a festival for three days and just show 70mm films and try to get people from abroad into the cinema. At that time I was in contact, (in Frankfurt we also screened 70mm Films) since two years so I had a kind of a small network, where to find prints, where to get them. We have a new business here let’s make a big bang for the specialists and what’s more we had six new prints from Fox in 2005 to show there.
THa: Did you have any idea of the guests you would have at the first festival? Would they come from Karlsruhe or was it also people from around the area, even from abroad, as you mentioned?
Herbert: They came from abroad from Stuttgart, from Frankfurt, from Munich. Some came from Great Britain; some came from Denmark! It was small, but it grew up. I don’t remember exactly where we advertised it, but your website helped a lot and some internet forums where we placed it. It was already quite good.
THa: Did you have any feedback from the audience?
Herbert: Of course, a lot of people were very happy and thought that they would never see "The Sound of Music" in a [new] print in colour and 70mm, again. It was quite rare in Germany. I didn’t know of any place that was able to show six old films with new prints, within three days. Nobody did that at that time.
THa: And nobody has done it since.
Herbert: And nobody has done it since, at least such a festival. And from year two, we added the extras to it. The breakfast and the dinner where everybody sits together. We planned it for more time to socialise between the shows. In the first festival, it was quite tight.
THa: Is it your impression that the guests and the audience appreciate sitting together and having a beer, a schnitzel, a bratwurst or a curry, between the movies? To me when I come here, it seems to me to be like one big family, to look forward to it and have a dinner.
Herbert: Yes, it is necessary that the people have time to talk to each other about the movie which they have just seen, to discuss the story, the cast, the condition of the print and all these things. We are human beings and we have that need to get into contact with others. At least most of us…
THa: How would you describe the weekend from a Friday to a Sunday evening?
Herbert: The weekend consists of three days of 70mm and we always try to find a mix between some new movies, which are produced or at least exhibited in 70mm. In recent years. We have been lucky with "Tenet", "Dunkirk", “Interstellar” and "The Hateful Eight", brand new movies with 70mm prints available. If there are no new movies, we try to get new prints, like "Lawrence of Arabia", "The Sound of Music", "Patton" or "Dr Doolittle". We try to find a mix between these new movies and old movies with new prints and some vintage prints, historic prints. There are a lot of 70mm productions, Super Technirama 70mm productions where it is almost impossible for new prints to come again, like "El Cid", because Super Technirama is very complicated to make new prints again. Then we show old prints that are faded, unfortunately, but still have the original sound mix with six channels and the sharpness is still there. The audience is still appreciating this. On Sunday we usually have some special things like a lecture about the history of Todd-AO or about a special topic about it. Also, on Sunday we have a two or three-hour slot to show trailers, odd reels, shorts, maybe have visitors, cinematographers, directors. People from abroad should not have to go somewhere to try and find a place where they can find something to eat and they are not sure if it is good or not good.
So, from the second festival in 2006, we began to offer breakfast to everybody with a weekend pass. The first movie intermission would have coffee or tea with some cake on offer. We would have lunch in the late afternoon between two shows, a longer intermission of about one to one and a half hours when the people would have lunch with us and sit in the beer garden, if the weather was good or inside and the people can eat together and also discuss whatever they want about the movie which they have just seen, to come into contact, to make friends, to meet friends again.
It’s also part of the weekend that you meet basically your "family" again, which you haven’t seen for one year. Of course, you have to tell them something. On Friday evening, we have the Get Together with Hoepfner, which is also always very nice. So basically, the audience is staying three days at The Schauburg to see movies, talk with the other people, eat something together and just go sleep - somewhere else.
THa: And they get a programme?
Herbert: They get a programme brochure which is a magazine, the biggest one we issued was ninety-six pages. In it, we describe every movie which we show, with a storyline with some interesting notes about the movie, show some photographs, complete credits for the cast. Usually, the text is not copied and pasted from the internet. For some years, a new text from Mr Kohl has been written especially for the programme brochure. We also have some topics about 70mm in the brochure, explaining cinematographic processes, an article about the MCS 70 Camera, for example. Most of the time we try to make it in German and an English version for the international guests. This is free for everybody who gets a Weekend pass.
|Herbert Born in October 2021. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev|
THa: In Germany everyone knows that the movies are dubbed into German and I know that at least in Denmark some say they will not go because the movie is in German. Personally, I don’t care because I know the movie in advance with the soundtrack playing in my head. Are there any thoughts about showing the film in German or English with subtitles in Russian, English or in German? How do you solve a problem with language issues? Do you have anything?
Herbert: Not really because it’s a small area, we don’t have access to a big variety of prints, so we know what is existing. We have to take what we can get our hands on. Sometimes it’s a German dubbed version. Of course we are in Germany and we have more access to German prints than original version prints. Sometimes, when we are lucky we find a print in England or The Spanish Film Archive or The Netherlands or from the States, from the studios, or some original version prints, most of the time without subtitles or with Spanish subtitles, so we take what we can get.
Sometimes for Russian movies, there are no subtitles at all, so we make our own subtitles. We get someone to transcribe the dialogue. It is translated, then subtitles are created. That is what we are planning for next year’s festival for our Russian Convolution!
THa: What can we expect after two years [of Covid lock-down] in 2022. Things can change.
Herbert: Yes, things can change. We will show "Tenet", because "Tenet" has not been shown at the festival yet. It was released in 2020, but we had no opportunity to show it, so "Tenet" is on the list and "Wonder Woman", the first part, which came out with 70mm prints in the United States. We will try to get a print. It was not possible three years ago because the prints were still booked, but now we think we can get this movie in a 70mm print. We hope to get Tarantino’s "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" from the few 70mm prints that were distributed in the United States. We hope that Paul Thomas Anderson or his distributer will do a few prints in 70mm of his new film "Licorice Pizza". We may be lucky enough to get a print.
We have, thanks to you some good connections with the production company of Paul Thomas Anderson. We hope that "Death on the Nile" will come out in in some 70mm prints in Germany next year. We will try to get one of the prints available and of course we bought a Russian collection of 70mm prints, two years ago. We want to show one movie or at least some out reels, because not all prints were complete. Nobody knows that in the late eighties, the Russians were still producing film on 70mm rolling stock. Not everything was blow-up. There are some very nice things to see that were never seen anywhere in the West.
THa: As I end this interview, can you say what excites you about 70mm? Do you have any favourites among 70mm?
Herbert: It still excites me because it is still something very special. It really looks good if you see it on the big curved screen. It is something rare, not everyday business. It is truly special; it looks very good. Certain films were produced in 70mm and our audience like it, appreciate the work which we put into showing it. We get letters or emails from clients saying, for example, "I travelled 150 km to see this film on your screen, it was so good and thank you very much". That’s nice!
THa: What is your own favourite in 70mm?
Herbert: I like "Play Time" by Tati. Maybe not because it is 70mm. 70mm adds to it. But it is a great movie. Every time I see it I see new small things, which you will not see on television or 35mm, but you will see it in 70mm, because it is that precise and clear that you can see every small detail in the background and in the foreground. So that is one of my big favourites.
THa: Are there any rules for the 70mm Weekend? Popular films, not so popular films. Do you show 35mm or digital? Do you have any rules?
Herbert: The rule is that it must be in 70mm. So 35mm is not appropriate. We made an exception once with a Cinestage print in Technicolor and Perspecta sound of "Around the World in 80 Days". I cannot think of another possible exception. It was a very rare thing and it was originated on 65mm. OK we can live with this one exception.
In recent years we have presented a warm up on a Thursday evening, which is not part of the festival, but is on offer to the festival guests, a warm up where we show digital restorations of 70mm movies like "Oklahoma!" screened in 30fps or "Flying Clipper". That is not part of the festival, but it takes place on Thursday evenings when most festival guests have already arrived, had their schnitzel at Wolf's and then come to watch the movie
THa: What are the dates for 2022?
Herbert: October 1th to October 3rd 2022.
THa: Thank you very much.
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