Babylon cinema

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Babylon as seen from the junction of Hirtenstrasse and Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse (2010)

The Babylon is a cinema in Berlin district of Mitte , is part of a landmarked building complex on Rosa-Luxembourg-Platz opposite the Volksbühne is. The building was built in 1928/29 according to plans by the architect Hans Poelzig and is considered an exemplary work in his creative period of New Objectivity . In 1948 the house was heavily rebuilt and then served as a specialty cinema in the GDR . After the cinema hall had to be closed in 1993 due to the risk of collapse, it was renovated from 1999 to 2001 and reconstructed in accordance with the listed building standards. The reconstruction was awarded the "German Prize for Monument Protection" in 2002.

Planning and architecture (1927–1929)

Babylon Cinema, 1929

From 1927 to 1929, Hans Poelzig designed eight blocks on the Bülowplatz (today: Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz) on behalf of the builder Alfred Schrobsdorff (1861-1940) for a perimeter block development on the square. The completed blocks contained 170 apartments and 80 shops. The block in which the Babylon is located, having the shape of a right triangle, wherein Hirtenstraße and Small Alexanderstraße the catheti form, while the Weydingerstraße the block as hypotenuse limited. The floor plan of the block is faceted at the acutely angled corner of Weydinger and Hirtenstraße, so that the building has a short facade facing Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße. The entrance to the cinema is located here at Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30 . The block of Babylon is the only completely preserved ensemble from the overall design by Poelzig after the war damage.

The structure is structured horizontally by a banded enclosure of the rows of windows and a protruding cornice on the roof panel. The facade is plastered in an ocher color , the bands are made in a lighter shade of yellow - also in plaster. In keeping with the New Objectivity, the interior design was also characterized by the economical use of materials while at the same time exploiting the emotional effect of colors and shapes:

“From a spacious vestibule in gray, red and yellow, from which two wide stairs lead up to the gallery, one arrives at the stately auditorium, which is given a warm and cozy atmosphere without any expenditure on decorative shapes, simply by colored treatment. The wall and ceiling are tinted yellow, the niche and the parquet boxes are painted out in red and set off with a narrow copper-colored ribbon, the balustrade of the chairs is blue, the chairs are covered with velvet of the same color. The woodwork of the doors and the grilles of the heating and ventilation are painted red. "

- Walter Curt Behrendt : Die Baugilde , 9/1927

Poelzig also worked as a set designer and architect for film and theater in the 1920s, the most important film with his participation was The Golem, How He Came into the World (1920) by Paul Wegener and Carl Boese . In addition to the Babylon, Poelzig designed two other cinemas: the Capitol am Zoo in Berlin (1924–1926) and the Deli in Breslau (1926/1927).

History of use up to restoration (1929–1999)

Kino Babylon, world premiere The Great Patriot on December 30, 1949
Demonstration against the closure of the cinema, January 9, 1990
Berlin memorial plaque at the cinema

On April 11, 1929, the Babylon was opened as a silent film cinema. There was an orchestra pit and a cinema organ for the musical accompaniment of the films . During the renovation (1948) the orchestra pit was closed and the organ dismantled. A Babylon projectionist, Rudolf Lunau , belonged from the " seizure of power " in 1933 until his arrest in 1934 to an illegal KPD resistance cell , which he held in "his" projection room, where he also hid opponents of the regime in hiding. A metal plaque in the foyer of the cinema has been reminiscent of Rudolf Lunau since the early 1980s.

After the end of the Second World War , the Babylon was reopened as a premiere theater on May 18, 1948 under the direction of the Sovexportfilm agency in Germany. The Babylon cinema served as a special interest cinema in the GDR until 1989, but the GDR State Film Archive and the Association of Film and Television Makers of the GDR (VFF) also held performances here, for example the DEFA series “Offers” from 1984–1989 - Documentary studios. In 1993 the great hall of the cinema had to be closed due to the danger of collapse . The foyer of the cinema was then converted into a provisional venue with 68 seats.

Restoration (1999-2001)

The two-year renovation of the Babylon began in 1999. It cost ten million marks and was 60 percent financed by the State of Berlin from the budget for urban monument protection; Lottery funds of two million marks were available for armchairs, film and sound technology. The main renovation measures were necessary on the roof and the ceiling of the large hall. The wooden beams in the ceiling that were no longer load-bearing were replaced by steel girders and a new roof was erected on top. The facade was also renewed.

In the sense of a critical reconstruction , the aim of the renovation of the interior was not to consistently achieve an arbitrarily dated "original state", but to deliberately represent the various construction states and periods of use. The opening state of 1928 was sought in the foyer , while the hall was renovated in the manner of the 1948 conversion: with plush armchairs, stucco and gold-plated details. The original building could be used as a cinema as well as a theater and therefore had a stage . The small hall was created in this room behind the canvas of the large hall. The orchestra pit of the large hall has been restored so that music for the film can now be played live with a chamber orchestra . In 1999, then 70 years old was Philip - cinema organ restored, which is thus operated as the only theater organ in Germany still on the original site.

In May 2001, the great hall reopened with the film Othello (1952) by Orson Welles . In 2002 the association “Berliner Filmkunst Babylon” was awarded the “Silver Hemisphere” of the German Prize for Monument Protection . The architects Joachim Roemer (association) and Klaus Meyer-Rogge (planning and construction management) were honored for rescuing a “key building in cinema architecture”.

Current use (since 2001)

Since 2001, Babylon is used again, primarily as a cinema , but also for cultural events. The cinema originally had 1200 viewers in one hall, but is currently divided into three halls with 500, 68 and 43 seats.

Festivals and lectures

Entrance during the Berlinale

The Babylon serves as the venue for the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). The 11mm football film festival is also held in Babylon every March . Forensic biologist Mark Benecke has been giving regular public lectures on crime , crime films and crime biology in Babylon since 2000 .

Silent movie

The repair of the cinema organ made the series “Silent Film Concerts” possible with the composer and pianist Stephan von Bothmer , who inaugurated the organ on May 26, 2001 for the screening of the film The Golem, How He Was Born .

As the last surviving cinema from the 1920s (" silent film era "), the Babylon has since placed a thematic focus on the performance of silent films: With Anna Vavilkina, the cinema employs Germany's only permanently employed cinema organist. In addition, the Babylon Orchester Berlin was founded on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the house in 2019 . Under the direction of Marcelo Falcão, it accompanies live performances of films of the era.

FAU controversy

In 2009 some Babylon employees, some of whom were organized in the anarcho-syndicalist FAU , tried to push through higher wages and better working conditions. At the end of July 2009, the Berlin section of FAU called for a boycott of the cinema. On January 1, 2010, the ver.di union concluded a collective agreement for Babylon employees. Since 2009, the operator of the cinema has been involved in a legal dispute with FAU regarding the right to designate oneself as a union. The LAG Berlin determined in October 2009 that the FAU had no tariff capacity due to its “insufficient power to enforce” . An interim injunction issued by the Berlin Regional Court in December 2009 , in which FAU Berlin was banned from calling itself a “union” or “basic union”, was repealed in June 2010 by the Berlin Regional Court.

Cinema organ

The large organ was built in 1929 by the organ builder JD Philipps and is currently being restored by the organ builder Jehmlich (Dresden) . The pocket store instrument has 66 stops and 31 effect stops on two manual works and a pedal. The playing and stop actions are electric.

I. Manuals C – c 4
1. Dumped 16 ′
2. viola 16 ′
3. Drone 08th'
4th cello 08th'
5. Gamba 08th'
6th Concert flute 08th'
7th Vox coelestis 08th'
8th. Aeoline 08th'
9. Principal 08th'
10. clarinet 08th'
11. saxophone 08th'
12. Trumpet 08th'
13. Vox humana 04 ′
14th Tibia Clausa 08th'
15th Lotus flute 08th'
16. Weak flute 04 ′
17th Levitating violin00 04 ′
18th Octave 04 ′
19th violin 04 ′
20th Concert flute 04 ′
21st Tibia 04 ′
22nd Clairon 04 ′
23. Piccolo 04 ′
24. third 01 35
25th Fifth 02 23
II. Manuals C – c 4
26th Violon 16 ′
27. Lovely Gedackt 16 ′
28. Principal 16 ′
29 Lovely Gedackt 08th'
30th viola 08th'
31. Solo viola 08th'
32. Orchestra flute 08th'
33. Aeoline 08th'
34. Vox coelestis 08th'
35. clarinet 08th'
36. Solo saxophone 08th'
37. Vox himana 08th'
38. French horn 08th'
39. Tibia Clausa 08th'
40. Lotus flute 08th'
41. Soft flute 04 ′
42. Octave 04 ′
43. Levitating violin00 04 ′
44. Solo violin 04 ′
45. Orchestra flute 04 ′
46. Tibia 04 ′
47. Clairon 04 ′
48. Vox humana 04 ′
49. Bach flute 02 ′
Pedals C – f 1
50. Sub bass 16 ′
51. Gamba 16 ′
52. saxophone 16 ′
53. Dumped 08th'
54. Tibia Clausa00 08th'
55. cello 08th'
56. Principal bass 08th'
57. Violon bass 08th'
58. Bass flute 08th'
59. Trumpet 08th'
60. saxophone 08th'
61. clarinet 08th'
62. cello 04 ′
63. Octave bass 04 ′
64. Violon bass 04 ′
65. Flute bass 04 ′
66. Choir bass 04 ′
Cinema effects
Church bells
Orchestra bells
Bells ringing
Turk. pool
big drum
small drum
Wooden drum
Pounding horses
Gong weak
Gong strong
Sleigh rings
Chirping of birds
Boat whistle
Fire alarm
Bosch horn
  • Coupling : I / I (super and sub-octave coupling), II / I, II / II (super and sub-octave coupling), I / P, II / P.
  • Playing aids: 10 fixed combinations, 4 free combinations, tutti; Register crescendo (15 levels) for 1st manual and pedal;


  • Hansi Oostinga: For a handful of dollars? The labor dispute in the Babylon cinema in Berlin. In: emanzipation - Journal for Socialist Practice and Theory , Volume 2, Number 2 (December 2012), ISSN  2192-2837 , pp. 32–43
  • Wolfgang Pehnt , Matthias Schirren : Hans Poelzig (1869–1936) - architect, teacher, artist . Verlag der Akademie der Künste, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-88331-114-6 (catalog for the exhibition in the ifa gallery Berlin).
  • Thomas Wieckhorst: Berlin Babylon - Conversion of a listed film theater in Berlin . In: Bauhandwerk , No. 03/2003, ISSN  0173-5365 , pp. 36–43.
  • Matthias Schirren: Hans Poelzig - the plans and drawings from the former Transport and Construction Museum in Berlin . Verlag Ernst & Sohn, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-433-02091-4 (presented in 1990 by Schirren as a dissertation at the University of Marburg).

Web links

Commons : Kino Babylon  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Entry in the Berlin Monument Database, accessed on July 9, 2016.
  2. Hans-Peter Reichmann (Ed.): Hans Poelzig - Buildings for the film . Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-88799-056-0 . (Catalog for the exhibition Classic German Filmarchitektur. Hunte - Poelzig - Reimann , from November 5, 1997 to January 18, 1998 in the German Film Museum, exhibition archive , accessed on October 23, 2008.)
  3. Michael Hanisch: The Babylon. Stories about a Berlin cinema with digressions. Berlin 2002, p. 9.
  4. Michael Hanisch: The Babylon. Stories about a Berlin cinema with digressions. Berlin 2002, pp. 20-29.
  5. Contributions to Film and Television Studies (BFF), No. 32/1988, ISSN  0232-718X , pp. 156–170. Quoted from DEFA-Stiftung, Chronik 1988. ( Memento of the original from December 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. DEFA Foundation, Chronicle 1984 ( Memento of the original dated December 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. for the opening of the series on January 5, 1984 (accessed October 24, 2008). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. a b Kerstin Krupp: cinema hall receives gold and stucco back . In: Berliner Zeitung , June 8, 1999
  8. Tobias Schneider: Baroque with gold trim for the great hall . In: Berliner Zeitung , January 25, 2000.
  9. Claudia Fuchs: The great hall of the "Babylon" opens on May 4th . In: Berliner Zeitung , April 24, 2001.
  10. Babylon Berlin - Award for Monument Protection 2002 . In: Bauhandwerk , December 13, 2002, ISSN  0173-5365 .
  11. Christmas lecture with film Rest in Peace 2016
  12. Christmas lecture with film Rest in Peace 2017
  13. Photo series by Maria Runarsdottir with Mark Benecke in Babylon
  14. Silent Film Concerts Berlin.
  15. Florian Thalmann: A woman and 913 pipes. Through the night with the Babylonian cinema organist. Berliner Kurier, February 20, 2019, accessed on December 31, 2019 .
  16. Kino Babylon turns 90. In: Morgenmagazin on ZDF, June 3, 2019, accessed on December 31, 2019 .
  17. Silent film concerts in perfection. In: the orchestra's official website. Babylon Orchester Berlin, accessed December 31, 2019 .
  18. Sebastian Heiser: Great cinema even before the film . In: the daily newspaper , regional section Berlin, July 30, 2009.
  19. Birgit Schmidt: A union that the boss doesn't like . In: jungle world , January 7, 2010.
  20. Jörn Boewe: right of association defended . In: Junge Welt , June 11, 2010.
  21. Information on disposition on the website of the organ building company Jehmlich (as of November 5, 2019)

Coordinates: 52 ° 31 ′ 33 "  N , 13 ° 24 ′ 42.8"  E