In 1998, you co-founded the Riffraff. A 1991 film by the British director Ken Loach has the same name. Is that just a coincidence?
The match lies in the term and the attitude behind it, because ‘riff-raff’ actually means something like ‘scum’ and refers to the working classes. However, the name is only on closer examination a homage to the history of District 5. Our primary aim was that it should signal a fresh start. We were deliberately not trying to deal in cinema nostalgia, although the building on Neugasse had been home to a cinema as early as 1913, and that cinema had lasted into the late 1940s. We opted for a new cinema name that would probably be unique anywhere in the world and stand for something distinctive. The independent approach to the programme was complemented by a similar use of the space. The conversion of the cinema foyer into a bar and the later expansion from two to four auditoriums widened the Riffraff’s appeal and its function as a model for others far beyond the city limits.
The Houdini, another new arrival on the Zurich film scene, opened in 2014. How is it different from the Riffraff?
Just as the Riffraff reinterpreted cinema for the 1990s, the idea of the Houdini nearly 20 years later was also the product of a different world. A new cooperative residential complex was planned next to the Kalkbreite building, and this was also intended to house a cinema. The cinema sector was stagnating, and the onward march of digitalisation was already well under way. We considered how an economically viable cinema with a future might be possible on this site, taking account of the new digital possibilities. As a ‘miniplex’, it performed the functions of a multiplex cinema, but its compactness and design make it very different. Five small auditoriums, and airy spaces for catering, provide the framework for a consciously wide range of mainstream and independent films, a significant proportion of which are also aimed at a very young audience.