Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Notes on the lost film theatre Atlantis, Bochum

For T.

The picture above is the only visual document I have found. “Atkantis” was one of the typical names for cinema halls, the “Atlantis” from my home town Bochum deserves this name for more than one reason. It exists only in my memory and if my memory does not betray me, it was one of the most beautiful film theatres I aver visited. Built 1957/58 it was the technical most advanced film theatre in this city. That was the time when Cinema fought with Cinema scope, 70 mm and Vista Vision against the competition of Television.
Even though I am grown up in the 1960s where already the first wave of the extinction of Cinema halls took place. Every second Super market was once a film theatre.

I was around 14 when I watched in the “Atlantis” Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine (a film which was already shown on TV but which amazed me in all its glory, vista vision and in colors). The big inwards arched screen gave me the possibility to enjoy first time in my life Cinema scope. Very few film theatres today offer this pleasure of watching a film in Cinema scope or 70 mm. These are formats which are wastes when the big screen is not arched at all. The “Atlantis” was by far the finest cinema hall for these formats. Later I saw films like Papillon and Logan´s Run, Films which are only available on DVD but just the memory to have seen these films in the right cinema hall helps me even today to remember the glory of these films.
The “Atlantis” had once around 800 seats. Later they built in the first floor a movie hall called “Atelier” and after 1976 when the “Atlantis was renovated a small film theatre was as well included, the name unfortunately escaped me.
Just 6 years later and I think Stanley Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of if not the last film screened there. Soon after the “Atlantis” was closed forever. A Super market replaced it and just the name of a pharmacy beside the former cinema hall called “Atlantis-Apotheke” reminds on the name of a destructed film theatre.
Such things happen all around the world, if in the USA, India or even the most cinephile country in the world France.
Film theatres are no protected cultural monuments which is one of the most dramatic mistake in the culture of the Twentieth Century. When the “Atlantis” was closed down forever, my other favorite film theatre in Bochum “Bali” was also closed but reopened 1985 under a new name “Metropolis”.

I remember the red seats and the entrance of the “Atlantis”which was like a secret path into a hidden paradise. During summer holidays they showed each day at 11 in the morning films for young people for less than one Euro. That were the most beautiful hours I spent in my youth. The triste every day of my working class family, the already beginning worries what to do after school disappeared for 2 hours completely. And when I attended these screenings at the “Atlantis” with my younger sister or my youngest brother, we walked home very slow, trying to safe the film experience as long as we could against the grey every day. Well, as I was far away from knowing all the great films I love today, Ozu, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Terrence Malick etc, I never really got rid of this fascination for a magic which really is a combination of the film I watched there and the architecture, the big screen and the feeling to be in a completely different world.
“The Atlantis” was one of the cinema halls where I learned seeing films. Recently I watch from time to time some films which I saw there at the first time in my life on screen like Schaffner´s Planet of the Apes, Michael Anderson´s or George Pal´s The Time Machine. While the first two films were at that time contemporary films in an aesthetic which almost disappeared at the same time like this wonderful film theatre, Pal´s film was already shown several times on TV and like in most families at that time in black and white and in the wrong aspect ratio. In a way the “Atlantis “screening of The Time Machine
gave me an idea about the fascination the film must have had for the people who watched it around 1960. When I dream about cinema halls, the “Atlantis” which is even more lost than the legendary continent come often back to me. The films which occupy my passion about cinema today like those from Aparna Sen, Terrence Malick or Hou Hsiao Hsien – or even the wonderful films by Vietnamese Dang Nhat Minh which were never released in my country – are screened in this cinema hall and I am sitting on one of the red seats looking at this mighty big screen.

Rüdiger Tomczak

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