Zoo Palast

Hardenbergstrasse 29a, Charlottenburg,
Berlin 10623

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UCI Kinowelt Zoo Palast

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the ‘Bikino’ with 2 screens – the smaller one carrying the name ‘Atelier am Zoo’. The larger one is the ‘Zoo Palast’, traditional site of the Berlinale Film Festival between 1957 and 1999. The large 1,204-seat Zoo Palast auditorium opened on 28th May 1957 with “Die Zurcher Verlobung”. There were three sets of curtains; an orange main curtain, a Persian red ‘Premiere’ curtain, and a sky blue festoon (waterfall) curtain, when raised revealed a 10x20 metres wide seamless, metalised, Harkness wide screen. The cinema was equipped with three Ernemann-X projectors. The auditorium walls were lined with Mahogany wood paneling. The 550-seat Atelier am Zoo auditorium downstairs opened the following day with Burt Lancaster in “The Rainmaker”, presented in VistaVision.

It was for many years the highest grossing cinema in Germany with an average of more than 10,000 visitors per week.

In later years, seven smaller auditoriums were converted from other spaces in adjoining buildings. These had seating capacities for 184, 221, 95, 83, 352, 154 and 154, giving a total seating capacity of 2,997. Taken over by UCI in 1994, it was renovated.

In October 2009, the cinema and surrounding buildings were sold to a Munich based property development company, stating they would retain the original twin cinema, but demolish other surrounding buildings, including the seven smaller screens. The UCI Kinowelt Zoo Palast was closed on 31st December 2010, and was boarded up ready for re-development of the site. In August 2011 the buildings on each side of the cinema (containing the additional screens) were demolished.

The refurbished Zoo Palast re-opened on 28th November 2013. The two original auditoriums (which are Landmark listed, together with the facade) have retained their original decorative features, and have been re-seated with wider leather seats, reducing their original seating capacities. Five new screens have been built surrounding the original structure, which give a total seating capacity for 1,650.

Contributed by Robert Burger, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 22, 2005 at 9:53 pm

This was a replacement cinema building to the previous Ufa Palast am Zoo on the site, which was destroyed by bombs on 24th November 1943.

Built in 1957 as a purpose built twin cinema, the architects were Paul Schwebes, Hans Schoszberger and Gerhard Fritsche. The main auditorium Zoo Palast seated 1,204 and is located above the smaller Atelier am Zoo which seated 550.

Over the years between 1970 and 1980 an additional seven screens were added to the building around the sides and to the rear, retaining the original two auditoriums in their original sizes.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 7, 2005 at 2:32 pm

I’m guessing that this is the theatre that actress Hildegard Knef mentions in her autobiography The Gift Horse when she talks about the disastrous premiere of her 1958 film for director Wolfgang Staudte, Madeleine und der Legionär. Someone correct me if I err.

She wrote, “The première took place in the newly-built UFA Palast am Zoo. The publicity and public relations offices had excelled themselves and the evening was launched with colossal pomp and ceremony; when the houselights went up at the end, however, the atmosphere was very similar to Pankow in 1946, at the premiere of Love at First Sight. Gingerly I took my bow and was heaped with UFA flowers by the cinema attendants and then sat in the manager’s office behind the stage listening to the doleful reporters' sporadic efforts to say something conmforting. No other representative of UFA was present at this conference…. Friends called and said how sorry they were that the papers, which, in a fit of self-preservation, I had not read, had placed the blame for the UFA catastrophe on me, surmising that the poor director had not a chance against the headstrong star and that therefore the bad script, amateurish camera work, inferior lighting and sets, could also be held against me.”

albert
albert on September 15, 2005 at 9:32 pm

This cinema premiered “Madeleine und der Legionär”,according to
http://www.deutscher-tonfilm.de/mudl1.html
Zoo-Palast opend with the comedy “Die Zürcher Verlobung” (Getting Engaged in Zürich/The Affairs of Julie)
in April 1957. It is one of the most interesting cinemas of the fifties in Germany. Close to the station “Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten” it is right in the heart of West Berlin. Although there are shops in the front, everybody would identify it as a cinema.
It seated 1204, is built in stadium style with steps and a slightly oval shape. You enter a big lobby
with stairs on both sides going up to the cinema. The screen and stage is just behind the front.
Nowadays it has lost a lot of its glory. It is sadly refurbished and the front needs new paint.
When I visited it first in 1979, the seats were yellow. There was a oval ceiling with indirect lighting.
Walls were mostly made of wood. I went to the Bond movie “Moonraker” at a saturday night with
a lively and packed house.
Now they changed colours, installed pink seats, painted the ceiling white. Indirect lighting is gone,
the auditorium is sadly lighted, almost dark. The cinema and even the lobby and the big stairs are spoiled by poor looking floral design carpets. The worst thing is that they installed a smaller screen. The former one was about 20 meters long and 8 meters high and only slightly curved.
There were plans to destroy it, build shops or smaller cinemas into its shape, but it’s already destroyed
by the current owners. In former years it was saved by the Berlin film festival (“Berlinale”) which now
takes place in ordinary multiplexes.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 17, 2006 at 7:08 pm

An exterior view of the Zoo Palast in 2004:
View link

Ian
Ian on February 16, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Another shot from 1994 here:–

View link

kinokompendium.de
kinokompendium.de on June 30, 2007 at 4:20 pm

More infos and photographs on this theater (and many others) can be found on the German language only Berlin Movie Theater Guide – www.kinokompendium.de: Zoo Palast

woody
woody on May 23, 2009 at 12:44 pm

a 1970’s postcard i found in a fleamarket in Berlin
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/3546906692/

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