Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin And Kreuzberg
During the first decade of the 20th century Berlin-Kreuzberg saw the opening of its first eight proper (read: used mostly and entirely for presenting films) cinemas.
In fact, it can be argued that the very first one among them was busy presenting the new medium to the hungry crowds as early as in the last years of the 19th century: Apollo-Kinematograph, later known as Cines-Apollo, shared the rooms with the famous Berlin Apollo Theater in Friedrichstrasse 218 from 1896 on!
It was also here that the ingenious Berlin film-maker and inventor Oskar Messter showed his first celluloid works on a self-constructed projector which he named Kosmograph (more about Oskar Messter and his film ateliers in Kreuzberg in the following post).
Soon next to the Apollo-Kinematograph the Berliners could go to the pictures at several new locations. From 1905 the box office offered tickets to the Helios and from 1908 to the Parade-Theater – both only a couple of hundreds of metres further down Friedrichstrasse at No. 233 and at No. 46 respectively.
In 1907 two Vitascope cinemas opened in Kreuzberg: the Vitascope (today Moviemento) in Kottbusser Damm 22 and another Vitascope (also known as Bioskop, National, Roxy and Titania) in Friedrichstrasse 10.
The Allotria-Lichtspiele, which later became the legendary post-WW2 Bergmannkiez cinema Marabu in Bergmannstrasse 109, welcomed its first guests in 1909 and stayed in business until 1972.
Its contemporary, the Maxim in Köpenicker Strasse 1, at 200 seats only slightly smaller than the Allotria, was less lucky: the house and the cinema inside it were destroyed during the air-raids of 1943. The fate sadly shared by almost all of the above mentioned establishments.
But before the Second World War will do away with most of the local landscape, Kreuzbergers – at least those who could afford the price of the ticket – will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy “the pictures”.
One of them opened on October 29th, 1910 in Hasenheide 28-31 (door to door with the old Unions Brauerei, back in the days one of the biggest Berlin breweries).
After the UT Alexanderplatz and UT Unter-Den-Linden, the UT Hasenheide or Unions Theater Hasenheide was the third luxury cinema opened in Berlin by Paul Davidson´s quite impossibly named company known as Allgemeine Kinematographen Gesellschaft Union-Theater für Lebende- und Tonbilder GmbH.
Like all other film theatres of the group, it had very representative character. And unlike most of the other cinemas at the time which resided in simple or even quite basic Ladenzeilen – in shop-rooms inside regular residential houses – UT Hasenheide was a thing to behold.
With its quite ornamental neo-baroque style, with wooden panels on the walls and paintings stretching up from where the wood ended, as well as with its coffered ceiling and elegant parquet floors it created a new sort of atmosphere, a new type of the cinema experience. It turned watching a film into a celebration. It raised the film itself up to the level of Art with the cinema as its temple.
According to Baedeker´s guidebook Berlin and Its Environs from 1912, the price of cinema tickets at “ciematographic theatres” in German capital at the time was between 0.50 and 5.00 Mark. Considering how elegant it appeared, UT Hasenheide certainly fell into the upper category. And with 900 seats arranged in neat narrow tiers for the price that was more than twice as high as the admission price for the good old Kinotopp (another name used in Berlin for small cinemas), it must have earned its living well, too.
In the 1920´s the cinema will change its owners and its name – for the next decade or so it will be known as the Capitol. Slightly smaller and slightly less luxurious it will attract a solid group of viewers anyway. In 1930 it will be open daily, still offering an impressive 700 (some other sources quote 675) seats to them. Coincidentally, one of the cinema´s owners, Amalie Alpern of Kleinbeerenstrasse 25, who was running the place at the beginning of the 1930´s was already mentioned on this blog before in the following post.
After the old brewery and the surrounding buildings were torn down to make space for the new residential area stretching today between Hasenheide, Graefestrasse and Urbanstrasse, nothing was left of the old temple of moving pictures. If you choose to pass this address in Hasenheide these days – the behemoth of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung building, the stretch of the residential houses next door designed with lots of fantasy but with little common sense and for that reason already looking older and more tired than they actually are – what you will see is far from holy or magical indeed.
It is an entirely different film that you would be watching.