Berlin’s annual film festival, the Berlinale, is in full swing. Once a year, some of the world’s best-known actors, directors and producers line up on the red carpet at Potsdamer Platz.
Berlin has been a major world film hub since the 1920s – directors such as Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and Georg Wilhelm Pabst created timeless classics such as “Metropolis,” “Nosferatu” and “Pandora’s Box” in Germany’s capital.
Nearly a century later, Berlin’s cinematic landscape is still the most vibrant in Germany. Seeing an original version of a film might be difficult in other cities, but not so in Berlin. The German capital has more art house theaters than almost any city in the world – about 100 cinemas currently show alternative films.
In 1951, the Americans forces in West Berlin intentionally boosted the city as a global cinematic venue, wanting to showcase Hollywood glitz before Russians occupying Berlin’s East.
The Titania Palace movie theater in Steglitz in Berlin’s southwest hosted the first Berlinale.
In 1957, the film festival moved to the Zoo Palace theater in Charlottenburg near West Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm shopping boulevard. Here, stars like Sophia Loren, Jodie Foster and Tom Hanks celebrated movie premieres. Their star power helped briefly transform what was normally a rowdy cinema with popcorn-throwing teenagers into a dazzling venue of glitz, glamour and stardom.
As the event has grown, scores of other theaters have joined in the Berlinale.
One of the latest additions is tiny City Kino Wedding in northern Berlin – a cinema originally built and used by French forces during the Cold War. The theater is tucked behind the former French cultural center.
But the Berlinale is now so big, it’s taken over many of the city’s most iconic architectural landmarks. One is the House of World Cultures, a modernist building that Berliners say looks like a pregnant oyster located in Tiergarten park. Its director, Bernd Scherer, said the collaboration with the Berlinale is important both for the cultural center and the Berlinale.
The Berlinale’s biggest venue is the Friedrichstadt Palace, Europe’s largest showcase close to the Spree River. The building holds 1,891 people. The Cold-War era facility is the most-visited and profitable theater in Berlin, and home to the city’s version of the Rockettes dancers and Quatsch Comedy Club, a venue for TV stand-up.
This year’s Berlinale, the 66th since the first festival in Steglitz, remains Europe’s biggest film events after Cannes and Venice. Just this week, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and other stars walked the famed red carpet at Potsdamer Platz, testimony to the continued draw of one of Europe’s biggest stages.