So far, the most densely populated district of Zürich has been lacking an essential institution: A movie theater. But this is about to change as Houdini Kino/Bar is opening its majestic doors in Kreis 3.
Community Hot Spot: Houdini Kino/Bar
Res Kessler, an executive at Neugass Kino AG, took some time to walk us through this unique movie theater slash bar.
"The Houdini represents a new concept among movie theaters: We're open from noon to midnight, and we're clearly targeting an urban niche of Arthouse lovers."
Thanks to its stylish interior design and generous opening times, the Houdini invites neighbors for a cup of coffee or an afternoon screening – or both.
This new community hot spot deserves the "boutique" label thanks to the five screens with just 32 to 50 seats. Comfortable lounge chairs with lots of leg room, that is! And if you pay close attention, you will notice that each cinema's seats are pulling a Houdini on you: The colors of the seats' surface rotate...
Families have the chance to watch a daily family oriented film, and syrup for the kids is included in the admission. Perfect for those kids birthday parties, right?
We think the Houdini fits well within the equally new Kalkbreite community, which is apparently sitting on top of the tram depot. Apart from the architecture, this neighborhood is really unique in that it combines modern living arrangements with attractive business spaces. This full-service movie theater with bar is surely going to be perceived as an enrichment...
Arthouse is in the House
Films are curated by Frank Braun, an icon in the Swiss movie landscape. Each flick at the Houdini has been hand-picked by Frank. According to his colleague Res, this dedicated movie aficionado watches "360 movies a year."
So we expect to see only the shiniest diamonds from the world of Arthouse in Berlin, Cannes and Toronto… Always in the original language, of course!
No More Interruptions
"Switzerland is one of few countries that interrupts movies straight down the middle," Res Kessler confirms. "The reason is purely financial as theaters try to create another opportunity to sell concessions."
For many internationals coming to Switzerland, this practice comes across as annoying. So we really like that the Houdini counters this Swiss tradition: No more interruptions, but full immersion and focus on the big screen.
Since the advent of VHS and home theaters, the whole point of going to the theater has been less about the movie and more about the experience. Res Kessler: "The Houdini offers three compelling benefits over your home theater: A social, an architectural and an audio-visual experience."
"What about the name Houdini," you ask? Res tells us that the name encapsules the philosophy of the new theater perfectly. The name sparks curiosity and is new like the concept of the theater. Plus, the name has not been occupied by a single other theater!"
If the movies were not enough, this author will be first in line to try the Houdini hot dog: "We are working with Metzgerei Keller who have created a very delicious dog for us. Combined with a dark bread and gourmet mustard, the Houdini hot dog will be the talk of the town..."
Most theaters these days are forced to dealing with technological changes in the industry. They have to retrofit cinemas with new digital projectors and sound systems in order to accommodate the latest Blockbusters.
Not the Houdini: It is Switzerland's first (and only) movie theater built from ground up to accommodate digital projection. Our jaws dropped when we entered the basement server room: Each of the five theaters has a dedicated rack of neatly arranged audio and video equipment, all networked to perfection with a myriad of colorful cables.
The cinemas at the Houdini might be ahead of their time in terms of technology. The Dolby Atmos surround sound system is equipped to blast helicopter rotors and Amazonian rainfall from all directions – even from the ceiling!
Regular theaters feature seven channels of sound divided among voice, music and effects (plus one subwoofer). The Dolby Atmos system boasts 32 channels of sound, plus three subwoofers... Unfortunately, only few Blockbuster movies combine 3D projection with the latest audio technologies.
Or to put it another way: Godzilla 3D is not exactly down the alley of the Houdini. Arthouse films are, however, but it will be some time before Bollywood movies come chanting from 32 channels. "The studios are ready for Atmos, and documentaries will likely pick up the technology first. More than Honey would have been a perfect candidate..."
(Photographs copyright by Christian Langenegger/Dimitri Burkhard)