Veronika Hürlimann opened the first cinema in Zug in 1923. Today her grandchildren continue the tradition.
It is November 13, 1923. A historic day for Zug. The Grand Cinéma, today’s Gotthard Cinema, shows “The Electrification of the Federal Railways”. It is the first film screening ever in the canton. And marks the beginning of a long cinema tradition.
At the beginning of Zug’s cinema tradition there was a woman
Because: Even a century later, the Gotthard has not yet disappeared from the local cinema landscape. And is now one of the oldest film companies in Switzerland. This is thanks to Veronika Hürlimann-Schweikher, who laid the foundation for it back then.
She always needed her husband’s signature
To open the Grand Cinéma in Zug in 1923, Veronika Hürlimann teamed up with René Marchal – a cinema owner from Baden. The planned division of labor: Hürlimann was to run the business, Marchal was to organize the films.
A woman as director. Unusual for those days. On the Zug cinema website, where Leander Diener has examined the story historically, it says: “Although Hürlimann-Schweikher implemented her plans practically on her own, she still had to sign the partnership agreement with René Marchal with her husband’s name.”
However, the business relationship between “Mrs. Fredy Hürlimann” and René Marchal broke up almost a year later. And society’s dependence on her husband doesn’t last long either. He dies early.
When censorship intervened
As early as 1923, a multi-member censorship board had been established in Zug, which, as the “Cantonal Cinema Commission,” visioned films for decades. If necessary, she called for censorship measures. This affected, for example, revealing depictions. Allegedly disturbing productions such as “Frankenstein” from 1931 were even banned.
The Baar residents’ council accused cinema operator Veronika Hürlimann-Schweikher of saying that “the educational work of decades” was failing because of a single visit to the cinema. Crime films and westerns, such as those shown at the Cinéma Lux in Baar from 1956, were a thorn in the authorities’ side. But Hürlimann defended himself: “It should be noted that the good, sensitive films in particular are not being noticed in Baar.”
Looking back, this was a stroke of luck for them, says Alban Hürlimann, one of the two owners, today. His grandmother no longer had to obtain a second opinion or signature from Fredy Hürlimann. “As a widow, she was much more capable of doing business.”
The love of arthouse cinema comes at a price
When Veronika Hürlimann died on December 10, 1975, Kino Hürlimann AG comprised three companies: the Gotthard and Seehof cinemas in Zug and the Cinéma Lux in Baar.
The four halls are now in the hands of the grandchildren, Alban and Adrian Hürlimann. Both are over 70. And both share a love of art house cinema. In other words, niche productions that were not filmed in the big studios.
But: “It’s hard work to maintain arthouse cinema. “There are often two people sitting in the cinema,” says Alban Hürlimann. “This is where our idealism comes through.” Specializing solely in art house wouldn’t work. “We are between Lucerne and Zurich, we have to appeal to the entire audience.”
That’s why mainstream is also needed in the program. Even then, full halls are rare, says Adrian Hürlimann. “But last season it worked thanks to blockbusters like “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer”. The entire industry breathed a sigh of relief.”
Mainstream films help cross-subsidize art house productions. The bar operation is also an important source of income. And the halls are rented out. For further training or general meetings of companies, for example. “They are also in demand for children’s birthday parties with lots of popcorn.”
Because they own the properties, the cinemas have been able to be converted and expanded over time. And have income from rented rooms. “This has contributed to the preservation of the cinemas,” says Alban Hürlimann. “We want to take care of this legacy and feel responsible for maintaining it.”
The next generation is in the starting blocks. Daughter and son of Alban Hürlimann. “It won’t be an easy path, but it will be an exciting one.”
The oldest cinemas in Switzerland are located here
One of the oldest cinemas in Switzerland is in the canton of Aargau: 1921 celebrated in the town Brugg the Odeon its opening. Today it is a cultural center with several pillars: you can also see films here. But the program also includes cultural offerings in the areas of theater, dance and music.
In 1923, at the same time as the Gotthard cinema in Zug, Wettingen the Cinema Orient opened. Today it is run by an association that has set itself the goal of “keeping the beautiful cinema on the Baden-Wettingen border line alive”. The Orient is operated as an arthouse cinema with a fixed monthly program.
In the Tellspielhaus in Altdorf Willy Leuzinger brought the first permanent cinema to the canton of Uri in 1925. The Cinema Leuzinger has been run by Leuzinger’s granddaughter Marianne Hegi since 1980.
This is one of the oldest still active cinemas in Switzerland Uto in Zurich. The Uto cinema premiered in 1927. “It was built as a workers’ cinema for the surrounding residential areas,” it says on its website. However, the Uto’s days are numbered: the last films will be shown here at the end of March.
It also began over 100 years ago Interlaken the history of cinema. Thanks to the Corti family of cinema operators. Of the cinemas at that time, the one built in 1947 still exists today Rex. Today, Manuel Sanchez runs the business in the fourth generation.