history//KINO INTERNATIONAL, BERLIN

HISTORY AT THE MOVIES



The first entry in the "History at the Movies" series took us to the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., one of the most famous movie houses of all time. This time we're heading halfway across the globe to the retro-modern Kino International, home to many premieres during the days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and a great example of the 1960s architecture that defined the era.

The Karl-Marx-Allee is a famous area of Berlin featuring uniform architecture and a rich history of ever-changing cultural strides. Named after German philosopher Karl Marx, the boulevard was a place you could find the socialist elite during the entirety of the East Berlin days. The area features restaurants, retails spaces, and cultural establishments like museums and gathering places. The Karl-Marx-Allee was an ongoing construction project during the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. During the project's second phase the plans for a cinema were underway.

Josef Kaiser had already designed several complexes on the Karl-Marx-Allee when he joined forces with Heinz Aust to design a new, three-story theater. Ideas from the current change in cinema design standards were included in the formation of everything from the curvature of rows of seats to the projection booth and every technical spec imaginable. Optimal viewing and top-of-the-line sound were priorities.

Besides just the big screen, the theater features include a library, office spaces, and event rooms where you could find political and social leaders mingling before and after premieres. A sign of the times can be found in the underground bunker found below the theater, intended for state leadership.

The theater opened November 15, 1963 with a grand premiere and served as an ongoing favorite for film premieres from international directors (or, at least the ones brave enough to screen a film in the area) and, most importantly, the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, or DEFA, the state-run film company.

Upon opening, the Kino International was an elegant, ultra-modern place to celebrate cinema in a time and place that wasn't quite as well-regarded. As political unrest occurred throughout the region and around the world, and Reagan was working to get the Berlin Wall to fall, the Kino's cultural significance was important enough to be protected, no matter what. The last film premiere of the East Berlin era took place November 9, 1989, the same day the Berlin Wall fell.

Today, the Berlinale Film Festival uses the Kino International for screenings and international premieres. Audiences and filmmakers alike enjoy seeing modern films and classics in the theater's updated screening room, amongst its the highly preserved style. Posters of film currently playing are hand-painted on the outside of the theater, a tradition following the theater since day one. It's a work of art amongst other theaters of the time.


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