×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ARRI Leaders Assess Company’s Future Growth as It Marks Its 100th Year

Targets for expansion include Asian markets, high-end TV production and lighting products

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, ARRI has deep roots in the past, but the company’s focus is firmly on the future.

And for this still youthful company, the way to the future includes expanding existing markets, embracing emerging technologies, and reaching out to younger filmmakers.

One area of rapid growth is the East Asia Pacific region, which has seen demand for both cameras and lighting equipment increase considerably. ARRI camera revenue from the region, for example, is now larger than all the Americas combined. China accounts for about 50% of that region’s tally.

“It’s a big market for us — not just of the future, but the present,” says Dr. Joerg Pohlman, who leads the company together with Franz Kraus. The duo are the two members of the executive board at the ARRI Group.

The company has offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, and continues to expand its teams in the region. “We doubled our office space in Hong Kong because business is growing so fast, and we’re adding people, and we’re going to do the same in Beijing later this year,” says Pohlman.

“In the context of turning 100, the task is to stay young… to keep in touch with young people”
Joerg Pohlman

Sales for ARRI cameras and lighting in China reflect the rising expectations and production values of its film and TV industry. Sales for ARRI’s high-end Alexa 65 camera “is a good example of how mature China’s industry has become; how the budgets for their movies and shows have been raised,” says Kraus. “They can afford it and they can master that format.”

As more Chinese crews work on big-budget international productions such as “The Great Wall,” they are developing the same skillsets and expectations of image quality that their Western peers have.

Another area of growth is high-end TV production.

Often called the new “golden age” of television, the trend toward quality TV imagery is driven by pay TV and streaming companies. This presents new opportunities for big-budget shows with high production values.

For example, HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” shot in multiple locations, uses ARRI cameras.

“It is a huge opportunity for everyone in the industry,” Pohlman says. Improvements in TV-screen technology mean “viewers are able to appreciate the superior dynamic range that ARRI cameras deliver. The quality of TV pictures is improving so much that you can really see the difference.”

The move by such streaming platforms as Amazon, Netflix and China’s iQiyi into original content has added to the market. Several of Amazon’s shows have been shot with ARRI cameras including “The Man in the High Castle,” which opted for the Alexa, and Jeremy Clarkson’s auto-show “The Grand Tour,” which shot with the Amira.

However, Netflix’s insistence that its productions be shot at a true UHD 4K resolution prevents the Alexa and Amira being used, although the 6K Alexa 65 qualifies.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which shot in multiple locations using ARRI cameras, represents the new world of high-end TV.

But this strong focus on the future does not mean that ARRI has turned its back on its legendary past. Although the company no longer manufactures analog cameras, film still plays a role in its business.

Major filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan remain committed to shooting on celluloid and existing film cameras need to be serviced.

“You still need technicians who can repair them, and they need spare parts, and there is a clear commitment from ARRI that we will continue to [service the cameras] for at least 10 years,” Pohlman says.

“We still have all the skillsets,” Kraus adds.

The ARRI execs argue that a digital image looks just as good as film, but they point out that there are differences to the processes that filmmakers need to bear in mind. “We like that this option [shooting on film] remains, as long as filmmakers request it, because film capture and digital capture are totally different mechanisms,” Kraus says.

Lighting is another area with big growth potential, with products such as ARRI’s SkyPanel LED soft lights being widely used not only for films but also for TV shows such as Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“From a strategic point of view lighting is a very important part of our future,” Pohlman says. “The biggest growth we’ve had in relative terms has been in this area.”

“There are applications for LED lights that even we didn’t think of, but the users are coming up with ideas to make them very usable in everyday applications,” adds Kraus.

ARRI’s forward-looking philosophy is perhaps best expressed by a strong outreach to young filmmakers. Although its cameras are not the cheapest, ARRI encourages the new generation to use them through training and education.

“There are applications for LED lights we didn’t think of, but the users are coming up with ideas.”
Franz Kraus

“In the context of turning 100, the task for us is to stay young,” Pohlman says. “What we have to do is keep in touch with young people and make sure they are acquainted with ARRI equipment. We want to be the ultimate aspiration for filmmakers, but we don’t want people to wait until they are big stars in their 40s. We’d like them to use the equipment in their 20s, so they know our products, like them, and aspire to use them in the future.”

Among many other initiatives to support up-and-coming filmmakers, ARRI became a partner of the Berlin Film Festival’s talent development program, Berlinale Talents, this year.

As a further investment in the future, ARRI is building a headquarters in Munich that it plans to move into by the end of next year. The new building will recreate the campus feel, built around courtyards, of the present site in Munich’s Tuerkenstrasse, where the founders set up their business 100 years ago in a shoemaker’s shop.

The intent is to continue with an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas. “The potential I see is to arrange the departments in such a way as to have an ideal flow of communications and processes,” Pohlman says.

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • John bailey Academy President

    Former Academy President and DP John Bailey to Receive Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award

    John Bailey, the cinematographer and former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, will receive a lifetime achievement award from the 27th Camerimage film festival in Torun, Poland. The Fest, attended by top DPs and other artists from around the world, will run on Nov. 9-16. Bailey’s credits include Lawrence Kasdan’s “The [...]

  • Alita: Battle Angel VFX

    How Previsualization Helps Create Pitches for Projects Like 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Filmmakers are increasingly using previsualization, a now-standard technique for planning highly technical shots and sequences, as a tool for pitching a project to production companies, investors and studio executives — before a single full scene has actually been shot. More creatives are relying on the technique, dubbed “pitchvis,” to fashion a compelling and engaging presentation [...]

  • A Quiet Place

    Production Growth Stretches Crafts Talent Pool, but Experience Is Still Needed

    The growing number of outlets for movies and television means that demand for qualified artisans is at an all-time high. But while job opportunities have multiplied, the path to success — and potential elite status — is still a difficult one that requires on-the-job training, experience and skill development to deliver top-notch results. Some of [...]

  • Queen and Adam Lambert Live

    How the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour Brought the Opera to Arenas

    Just as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, wowed moviegoers last year, stage design firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has helped Queen + Adam Lambert’s current U.S. tour deliver a screen spectacular of its own. The tour, which plays New Orleans on Aug. 20 and Atlanta on Aug. 22, touched down at [...]

  • Mark Damon, CEO & Chairman, Foresight

    Mark Damon's DCR Finance Receives $150 Million for Financing Georgia Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mark Damon’s DCR Finance Corp., co-headed with financer Adi Cohen, has received a $150 million investment from Go Media Productions for Georgia projects, Variety has learned exclusively. Damon, whose credits include “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” made the announcement Monday with Cohen. The deal calls for Atlanta-based Go Media Productions to join a private placement as [...]

  • The Handmaid's Tale -- "Household" -

    ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Crew on Why the Lincoln Memorial Shoot Was Worth the Effort

    Shooting on location at a national monument may seem glamorous, but it often involves extensive prep to comply with strict regulations, restrictions and crowds — all for a short on-screen moment. For the cast and crew of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the seven months of planning and negotiations required for a one-day shoot at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content