At the movies in Zurich 30 years on

posted by SethLewis on August 27, 2009 at 4:49 am

At the movies in Zurich 30 years on…

My wife and I are just back from a weekend in Zurich…a destination I chose with some motivation…centre city lakeside beach, great baked goods, and outstanding sausages and beer…and the movies are in English – not always a given in Continental Europe.

I had worked in Zurich in 1981 – bartending and waiting tables in a little jewel of a centre city hotel – gravitating naturally to the movies on my days off. Shortly upon arrival at the Bahnhof, the main train station, I had discovered an old grindhouse, the Rex, which cranked out mostly Charles Bronson reissues with the odd Spaghetti Western, all dubbed in German of course, and even better a 20 foot display of current and coming attractions around town…and of course most hotel, cafe and bar vestibules would display a weekly movie timetable which changed every Thursday – a very civilized habit which still hangs on in many European cities.

The Corso on Bellevue Platz was an easy choice for Warner Bros product on its three screens (“Excalibur”, “This Is Elvis”, “Private Benjamin”, “Arthur”) and some other mainstream fare – “Live and Let Die”. Around the corner there were a couple of good little single screen houses – Le Paris where I caught “La Cage aux Folles 2” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, and the artier and downright tiny Commercio for Cassavettes' “Opening Night” and Toback’s “Fingers”…The cinemas were all easy to use, generally not very crowded and spotless – this is Switzerland after all. The Movies 1 and 2 were for Wajda’s “Man of Iron” and some Alain Tanner, the Frosch in the Old Town for Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcaraldo”, and the Alba at the foot of the red light Niederdorf ran Sophia Loren in “A Special Day” for a good 16 weeks. You had a 5 minute tram ride to the other side of the river to Stauffacher if you wanted the Apollo Cinerama = the city’s biggest at the time where “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, “Cannonball Run”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Fort Apache” ate ran and ran most of my 6 months…Another smaller theatre the Metropol took the quality mainstream openings the Corso didn’t get i.e. StirCrazy and a picture that I still love Michael Mann’s “Thief”.

The good news about Switzerland, and Zurich is that it changes, it evolves but not that much…so a trip to see the new “Star Trek” was an absolute treat…The Corso is still there – 4 screens now
A few theatres are gone – the bulky old Apollo is now a supermarket, the grungy old Rex is now a toilet and shower room, but most are still going strong. The then porno Capitol is now a smart five plex, the Paris looks sharp and the Commercio and its trattoria still serve great pasta and movies, the Corso has added a screen and slightly off centre the newish Arbaton in the trendy Zurich West area looks great

We ended up at an early evening show of Star Trek at the ABC a circa 1930 house around the corner from the train station which I had visited only once in 1981 for Sylvester Stallone in “Nighthawks”…to be honest it had given me the creeps…not grind enough to be a true grindhouse…and just not ready to be plexed…But this time was a treat…the smell of freshly popped popcorn, a screen facing you at the box office to select seats from, Screen 3 one of three carved out of the balcony a decent 200 seater with entrances from the left and right sides…The ABC logo in the corner in glowy read, comfortable high back leather seats with cupholders at the foot of those in front of you…Then something you might only experience in Switzerland —– I honestly have not been to a movie there since 1983 – an intermission 5 minutes in – a mad dash for ice cream, or the rest rooms…

The mainstream movie houses in Zurich, Lucerne, Berne and Basel all seem to be run by the Kitag Group who seem to take good care of their properties and do things right – a loyalty card, Tuesday night previews of upcoming films and some Friday and Saturday late shows.

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