There comes a time after Christmas and New Year when everybody has just had it. Yes, there is a rumour that the short days will get longer as of the 21st, but who cares as long as they still end at 3pm?

Some, who can afford both the financial and the karma load, fly out to ski on artificially enhanced snow slopes – others have had the right mind to book a cheap week on the Canary Islands in early September, when nobody else thought about it. Well, godspeed to them. Us urbanites who have to stick it out in Berlin facing bare trees, icy winds and a climate that reminds of Russian novels (but less picturesque), need to find a more local escape route – with gritted teeth, if needed. So – with glamorous Berlinale still more than a month away, we flock back to our favourite neighbourhood cinemas, of which many have survived the pandemic by bundling their resources, streaming era or not.

Most of the arthouse cinemas have long united in groups to survive, and thus it is still possible to see new releases in their original language just around the corner. Mostly, you can pick from two or three cinemas in your vicinity once you have made your choice, or you can just go to your favourite one and let yourself be inspired. The York cinemas for example, named after Kreuzberg’s Yorkstraße (where the very first ‘York Kino’ still resides), always have a range of worthwhile new releases at the ready, from box office hits through to say the new Kaurismäki. And the good thing about it – across town from West to former East Berlin, all of them have kept their original names.

Many of the older Berlin movie theatres date back to the Art Deco era, by the way. The ‘Babylon’ on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Mitte is one of them – and entices with free silent movies at midnight each Saturday, complete with live organ music. The ‘Kino International’ meanwhile offers pure GDR modernism on the Frankfurter Allee boulevard. Do go before the iconic building is closed for reconstruction as of April.

In Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg alone, you have a choice among former brewery Kulturbrauerei (with six cinemas showing a mix between blockbuster and arthouse), art-nouveau wonder Hackesche Höfe (with 5 cinemas showing original versions), Filmtheater am Friedrichshain (belonging to the above mentioned York group), through to small arthouse theatres such as the ‘Lichtblick’ on Kastanienallee or the ‘Kino Central’, situated right by the Anne Frank center at Haus Schwarzenberg – all with plenty of gastronomy options nearby. And in case there are liquorice lovers among you – the cinemas of the York group double as spot where you still get the famous ‘kado’ mix – produced by a local liquorice manufacturer driven out of their picturesque shop due to the “rental wars” affecting many small retailers in the Kreuzberg area.

So – plenty of reasons to get up from the sofa and bridge that gap between the holidays and the Berlinale, by enjoying a Berlin movie night out in style.

Berlin Notes: Town of coffee

Photo: Coline Mattée

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