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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.
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