Kino International is a treat for the eyes in more ways than one. Not only does the cinema screen exquisite arthouse films, but it’s also one of the most iconic examples of GDR architecture in Berlin.
It is one of the most impressive cinemas in the capital: Kino International, located between Alexanderplatz and Strausberger Platz. It’s home not just to famous flicks (Tilda Swinton, Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee have all premiered films there) but historic architecture too.
The building is the work of architects Josef Kaiser and Heinz Aust, who also designed Café Moskau and Kino Kosmos across the street. Opened in 1963 with the movie An Optimistic Tragedy, Kino International soon became a filmgoer favorite. Films such as Solo Sonny brought 100,000 visitors to its big screen, making it the most successful screening in the history of the GDR cinema. Western productions like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also featured in the program. Numerous balls, banquets and DEFA film premieres were held in the eye-catching building, often in the presence of the East German leaders. The Cold War-era building even had its own nuclear fallout shelter.
In 1989, there was a plot twist that no screenwriter would dare to dream up: in the middle of the premiere of the film Coming Out – whose protagonist was homosexual – the Berlin Wall fell. To mark this, the cinema launched the queer film night Mongay in 1997 – the oldest of its kind in Germany.
The listed building now belongs to the Yorck Cinema Group and serves as a venue for the Berlinale. It’s no wonder: as you enter the ground-floor foyer, the building strikes you with its retro charm and unique lighting. Upstairs, the Panorama Bar radiates grandeur with its crystal chandeliers and is open to all for drinks. The exterior is also unique, with hand painted signage and the beautifully-named carving, Of the Lives of People Today.