ARRI Celebrates 100 Years in the Motion Picture Business

More than just a camera company, the Munich-based global player has been at the forefront for technology and creativity for a century

August Arnold and Robert Richter ARRI
Courtesy ARRI

The motion picture industry is more than 100 years old and some film companies have also been around for close to a century. But perhaps none of them has had the consistency of ownership, continuity of culture and commitment to the art and technology of movies as Munich-based ARRI, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

To mark this event and assemble this special commemorative feature, Variety visited ARRI headquarters in Munich, interviewed the company’s top executives, toured its nearby factories and facilities and gained in-depth understanding of its corporate culture.

The experience was eye-opening. ARRI, we learned, typifies the Mittelstand — a medium-sized German company that has achieved longevity by staying close to the traditional values of its roots. Like ARRI, these companies are often family-owned across generations and overseen by custodians who have an emotional investment in the brand.

Unlike publicly held corporations, such companies are independent of shareholder demands and can invest in their future with less pressure to produce results each quarter. This has enabled ARRI not only to hold its own against much larger competitors but also to surpass them in the areas of technology development and product acceptance.

It has also allowed ARRI to remain close to its customer base, which includes some of the world’s top cinematographers and image makers, putting the company squarely at the intersection of technology and creativity.

On the pages that follow, Variety conducts in-depth discussions with Dr. Joerg Pohlman and Franz Kraus, the two members of the executive board at the ARRI Group, who describe a company that is youthful despite its age. Other stories outline the company’s various divisions and worldwide influence, its past in the context of the history of cinema in Germany, and its role in the creation of film classics over the years.

While many associate ARRI mainly with cameras — which are arguably its most high-profile products — the multifaced company has multiple business units that are leaders in their respective fields.

This feature profiles those divisions, including Lighting (which has become one of ARRI’s fastest growth areas), and ARRI Media (which includes post-production, sound design and mixing, visual effects and DCP mastering and distribution). Plus, ARRI Rentals serves the equipment needs of filmmakers on multiple continents.

We also talk to major cinematographers who describe their experience with ARRI products. When you read their stories you will discover a major reason for ARRI’s success: it listens to its customers.

ARRI’s anniversary — in September 2017 — is surrounded by numerous celebrations, including parties at the IBC show in Amsterdam and at the clubhouse of the American Society of Cinematographers in Hollywood. Variety is happy to be involved in these events as ARRI moves into its second century.

Pictured above: ARRI founders August Arnold, right, and Robert Richter