Cinema boss Flebbe bitterly disappointed with Scholz and Altmaier

Cinema entrepreneur Hans-Joachim Flebbe feels a little like in the losing role of a political drama in which there are two savvy cardsharps: Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU). At the beginning of the Corona crisis, both had publicly announced that they would generously help companies that suffered losses through no fault of their own from a pot of 25 billion euros. “There was talk of a bazooka in the fight against the crisis,” recalls Flebbe.

But then only a small sum had arrived on his accounts: a total of around 200,000 euros. “This compares to losses of 9 million euros by the end of October,” says Flebbe. “I think it’s a blatant injustice.” In the Astor Braunschweig alone, he lost around 1.5 million euros.

Astor Braunschweig not endangered despite major losses

Nevertheless, the continued existence of his ten cinemas in seven cities is not endangered, assures the 69-year-old. In Braunschweig help him that the property is family owned. At other locations, the landlords would have reduced or deferred their claims. The short-time work allowance helps with personnel costs. In addition, he received cheap loans from government guarantees that secured liquidity. “However, if I can reopen my cinemas, I won’t earn anything for two or three years, but pay off loans,” says Flebbe.

Why is federal aid so little? Because seven of his eight companies would be considered as one, explains the cinema entrepreneur. “Affected companies should initially receive 150,000 euros. However, EU competition law stipulates that several companies with the same shareholder are considered as one. I run the Astor Hannover with a partner, so there was 150,000 euros. But for all other companies together only 150,000 euros – for which country-specific aids were offset. ”

Flashed off with requests for changes

The problem affects many medium-sized companies beyond the cinema industry. The result: the federal government’s 25 billion “bazooka” has only spat out 1.6 billion. “You could regulate it differently if you were to take a disaster as a basis. I and others have pointed this out again and again – without an answer. The outrageous thing is that politicians are unwilling to revise decisions. They had the positive headlines, ”said Flebbe.

After all: he received 30,000 euros from the aid fund of the city of Braunschweig. And in the states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bavaria, which support their cinema landscape, “a smaller six-figure sum”.

Lawsuit against the Infection Protection Act

Does the state of Lower Saxony help its 179 cinemas? A spokesman for the Ministry of Economics refers to the one million euro stabilization program for the Lower Saxony film industry, which among other things supports festivals, production companies and art house cinemas. In addition, another program for the event industry is planned, from which cinemas could also benefit (see info box).

According to his statements, however, the state funds have so far flowed past Flebbe’s larger movie theaters. Meanwhile he is fighting on another front. His lawsuit against the Infection Protection Act was heard yesterday at the Hanover Administrative Court. This provides compensation for companies that have to close because the owner is sick with Covid-19. Companies that are restricted for other pandemic-related reasons are left with nothing. Flebbe sees this as an “absurd unequal treatment”. The court’s decision was still pending yesterday.

Hope for the reopening of the cinemas in mid-December

In spite of the anger about the federal government’s largely neglected aid, Flebbe hopes that the announced “November aid”, which is supposed to replace 75 percent of the losses due to the new lockdown, will not also fizzle out in the small print. If they were to flow, it would be even more attractive financially for him if the forced cinema closure were extended until the end of the year.

Nevertheless, he hopes to reopen by mid-December at the latest, says Flebbe: “We want to show that we are still there.” From an infection point of view, the closure of cultural sites is “a farmer’s sacrifice” anyway: “We have proven that there is no risk of infection. If the closings were justified, the number of infections would have to fall now, ”argues Flebbe.

Despite everything, he believes his Astor movie theaters have a future. “After the constant streaming at home, people will long for a movie theater experience as they do for a good visit to a restaurant. High-quality cinemas then have better tickets than run-of-the-mill multiplex halls, which have not been invested in for a long time. ”


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