Silent movie theater Delphi

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Silent Movie Theater Delphi

The first thing that comes to mind if you say Berlin and movies, probably is the Berlinale. Second: the Babelsberg film studio’s. But did you know Berlin has a long movie history? A hundred years ago the Berlin district Weissensee, close to Prenzlauer Berg, was called ‘Little Hollywood’. A lot of movies were shot here, and people watched those movies with spectacular names as ‘high treason’ (Hochverrat) at silent movie theater Delphi.

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Hooked on movies at Berlin

Imagine what is must be like if you have never seen a movie. For us, it is almost impossible to realize what that must have been like. But a hundred years ago it was very special if you could see a movie. In Berlin people were also hooked on watching movies. Movie theaters, like the Schaubuhne (now a theatre) were build in Berlin. In Weissensee, the art of making movies thrived. Movies with slightly spooky titles as Das Cabinett des Dr. Caligari were filmed in Weissensee.

prfoto03das-cabinet-des-dr-caligariwernerkrauss-conradveidt-lildagoverrestauriertfotomurnau-stiftungDas Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is the first German silent horror movie and is about a mad doctor, a somnambulist, two friends, a beautiful girl and of course, murders. The mad doctor Caligari lets a man, Cesare, sleepwalk and in his sleep he murders people. When their best friend Alan is stabbed to death during the night, Francis and his fiancee Jane want to find out who did it. When they realize, it was Cezare who killed their friend, Dr. Caligari orders Cesare to kill Jane too. But his spell is not working on the sleepwalking slave, because Jane is so beautiful. He abducts her instead and runs through Berlin with her, followed by angry people. They follow him and for such a long time, he dies of exhaustion. When Dr. Caligari sees his dead slave, he becomes so mad they have to put him in his own mad house with a straight jacket on. But that is not the end. The horrific tale Francis told the viewers is not true. Francis is mad and is a patient of the mad house himself. Jane and Cesare are inmates of the same asylum. But there is hope for poor Francis. By telling his crazy story, his doctor finally knows how to cure him. This year you will have the chance to finally see this horror classic yourself. The film has been recently restored and will have a new premiere during the Berlinale of 2014, this February.

silentmovietheaterdelphiSilent Movie Theater Delphi

Berlin had 400 movie theaters at the end of the golden twenties. The Silent Movie Theater Delphi was one of the biggest and prettiest. The first film that played here was ‘High Treason’ (Hochverrat). It must have been quite a spectacle. 870 people were watching the silent movie and the orchestra with 13 people played with their whole heart, hands and lungs for the whole evening. People enjoyed detectives here, as well as adventurous movies and love stories. During the Second World War the cinema was used to play propaganda movies. Many theaters were hit during the war, but Delphi only suffered mild damage. At least, that’s what people thought at the time.

Long lines in front of cinema Delphi

The cinema was used right after the war again. People stood in lines (sometimes the lines were so long they lasted till the Ostseestrasse) for films such as ‘Ich denke oft an Piroschka’ (I often think about Piroschka). But in 1959, people realized there was something wrong with the building when a part of roof came down in the theatre. A special committee checked the roof and discovered it had holes in it that had never been discovered before. Rain had been dripping in for a long time, ruining the building without people noticing it too late. The cinema was closed and the roof was renovated poorly. The city made plans to renovate the building, and saved money to do so. But it never really happened. Instead, silent movie theater Delphi was used as a place to store vegetables, as a laundry service and a place to stall music instruments such as electronic and church organs.

delphi2Renovation of Silent Movie Theater Delphi

In 2006 Andreas Jahn bought Silent Movie Theater Delphi and he made a start with renovating the old cinema. The walls are no longer crumbling down. He wants to use it as a cultural spot for the city of Berlin. But because the building has been neglected for such a long time, it is a long term project. In the mean time, the place can be rented for parties. This year, you can celebrate Silvester here in golden twenties style, for example. And it is used as a place where movies are shot. Quentin Tarantino visited Delphi because he wanted to shoot the last part of his movie Inglorious Bastards here (in which Hitler dies in a burning Berlin cinema). But in the end the logistic part of shooting the last scene in Delphi was too difficult. Other movies that were shot at Delphi are: Jerry Cotten and Das Kind.

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