I know a cinema where everything is just right: the location, the architecture, the hand-painted posters on the façade, the heavy red velvet curtains, the bar in the lobby and, of course, the outstanding film program. I have spent countless hours in the wonderful cinema seats here. And, depending on the movie and how I’m feeling afterwards, for a very long time at the lobby bar… We’re talking about the legendary Kino International. Now this icon is celebrating its 60th birthday – with an extensive program, but more on that below! First, let’s go back in time: it’s November 15, 1963 and the Wall has been dividing Berlin into East and West for two years. Kino International opens its doors as the first premiere cinema in the former GDR. With its design, choice of materials and proportions, the building is one of the most successful new cinemas of the post-war period. The latest DEFA films premiered here, including Konrad Wolf’s “Solo Sunny”. It was designed by architects Josef Kaiser and Heinz Aust as a three-storey reinforced concrete skeleton structure clad in light-colored sandstone. Characteristic of the movie theater is the cinema hall projecting above the first floor with a spacious foyer – column-free and nine meters above the first floor with a large open glass surface facing Karl-Marx-Allee.

The stately building was designed for multifunctional use. The foyer hosted balls, rock concerts, political rallies – even hairdressing competitions. What is less well known is that even before the fall of the Wall, the Kino International was a window to the world and showed selected Western productions such as “Cabaret” and “Beyond Africa”. The film “Dirty Dancing” was shown six times a day in 1987 and was sold out for weeks. The premiere of “Coming Out”, the first queer film in the former GDR, took place on November 9, 1989. It was a doubly moving event for the guests, as it turned out afterwards. When the Curtain came down, so did the Wall between East and West. In 1990, the cinema was added to the city of Berlin’s list of monuments and this may have been its salvation. The cinema has been part of the Yorck-Kinogruppe since 1992 and is still a place of openness and exchange today. And so this birthday is being celebrated: a lavish program accompanies the celebrations until the film theater closes in spring 2024 – for a brief general refurbishment from the basement to the roof in line with the conservation requirements. My highlight is the open day (19.11.) with a screening of my favorite DEFA classics: “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella”, “The Legend of Paul and Paula” and “Trail of Stones”. Architectural backstage tours (19.11.) provide a look behind the scenes. Every Sunday – for the next three months – a film will be shown that deals primarily with the GDR past: Films such as the Stasi drama “The Lives of Others” or the tragicomedy “Good Bye, Lenin!” are among the most successful films in Germany’s post-reunification history. A photo exhibition on the history of the building accompanies the celebrations. All that remains is to say: Happy Birthday, Kino International!

Text: Milena Kalojanov / Photos: Daniel Horn / Credit: Yorck Kinogruppe

Kino International, Karl-Marx-Allee 33, Berlin–Mitte; map
Special program to celebrate the cinema’s 60th anniversary. Register for the architectural tours on 19.11. at