The Best Independent Cinemas in Berlin
By Jessica Sattabongkok
As a city known for its culture, diversity and creativity, it’s no surprise that Berlin has such a thriving film culture. With its film makers and directors pushing the creative boundaries of film making, and unique pieces being made and shown in the city’s artistic neighbourhoods which are known for being hubs of counter culture, there’s so much for any film lover to discover in Berlin. The Berlin International Film Festival which this year reached its 68th year, may only take place one week a year, but the city is an exciting destination for any cinema fan all year round! So if you’re visiting Berlin and want to discover its ground breaking film culture for yourself, check out our guide to the best indie and arthouse cinemas where you can catch international and independent, local new releases in their original language.
For anyone interested in film culture outside of the big blockbusters, Berlin is a great place to be. And even in a country which loves its voice dubbing, Berlin is thankfully a city of international films screenings in their original language and indie cinemas who screen their films without dubbing. To make sure you’re not caught out though, always look out for OMU or OV (meaning either original language with subtitles, or just original language) next to the listings, otherwise you may find yourself sitting though a German version of a non-German film!
Berlin is a treasure trove of vintage cinemas which have been lovingly restored but not modernised. When you enter its classic theatres, with their creaky old floors and vintage style seats, you’ll really feel the authentic, cinematic atmosphere that’s been lost from so many cinemas these days. If you’d like to visit Berlin’s oldest cinemas, the best are Moviemento, which opened in 1907; Brotfabrik, which translates as “bread factory” since it began life in 1890 as a bakery, Bablyon Mitte dating back to 1928; Zoo Palst who began screenings in 1957 and Tilsiter Lichtspiele who celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2008.
And the best news? Every cinema in Berlin sells beer. This aside, there are many kinos located in actual bars, such as Eiszeit Kino and b-ware Ladenkino, which actually has a sign outside stating “dies ist kein kino” meaning “this is not a cinema” - possibly for legal reasons, although this hasn’t been confirmed… As well as these local favourites, don’t miss stopping by the following cinemas to catch a movie if you can!
Kino Arsenal specialises in retrospective films, and they often screen the films on original film stock which gives a very different, more organic experience of the film. They also often collaborate with the film museum which is located right above (and offers free entry every Thursday evening) and sometimes present lectures on film history. It is located underneath the famous Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz, which also holds CineStar IMAX, the only IMAX theatre in Berlin. Two completely different cinemas built almost on top of each other.
Part of Berlin’s unique film culture are the guerrilla screening organisations who host spontaneous film nights at various locations across the city, two of the most renowned being Mobile Kino and Mindpirates.
Mobile Kino: this organisation hosts screenings anywhere and everywhere that allows it. In summer, this means open air venues like parks and other outdoor venues, whilst in winter they tend to stick to bars, small screening rooms and clubs (not whilst a club night is taking place of course!).
Mindpirates: a beloved institution of the city’s film scene, Mindpirates screen films consistently at the same venue which is known simply as The Hole. Every second night of the week, they set up their small room, placing sofas, chairs and candles wherever they feel like it, and invite people in to their 3 euro screenings.
Open air cinema
Throughout the summer months, Berlin loves to screen films under an open sky, at various locations around the city. Known as “freiluftkino”, literally meaning open air cinema, these screenings run for a season from mid May until the end of August, with their start times calculated according to when the sun sets. The 4 main venues are:
Kreuzberg - for this location, it’s recommenced to arrive a little early so you can secure a deck chair, otherwise you’ll be seated on plastic chairs (which is not bed either, but the deck chairs are certainly better!) - on Marianneplatz near Kottbusser Tor
Friedrichschain - in Volkspark Friedrichschain
Rehberge - in Volkspark Rehberge in Wedding
Hasenheide - in Volkspark Hasenheide in Neukölln