Even if you’ve been living in German for 30 years and haven’t spoken a word of English in 20, it still feels good to catch a non-dubbed version of a recent release in the theater. Last summer, during a 3 week holiday to Berlin, I spent about half of my time in the Cinestar Original theater on Potsdammer Platz, a cinema that only features original versions of new releases. Back home in Cologne, I’m also a bit spoiled by the options available, which means that I’m able to see almost every movie that comes out Stateside.
During my first two years in Germany, I lived in Siegen, a small provincial town east of Cologne. As in most mid- to small-sized cities in Germany, Siegen’s movie theaters all featured dubbed versions of international movies. Most of this is high quality, to the point where you hardly notice Denzel Washington’s strange German accent, but often the message gets lost in translation.
In Cologne, we have a lot of options. When looking for a movie, there are three abbreviations to keep an eye out for.
- OV means that the movie is being screened with the original audio.
- OmU means that the movie is being screened with the original audio and German subtitles.
- OmenglU means that the movie is being screened with the original audio and English subtitles.
Cologne has a large international population and a market for English-language film screenings. As a result, expats here have a wealth of choice.
- Metropolis is the go-to option for OV screenings. It is also popular because it tends to feature movies in wide release and kids movies.
- Filmpalette is an art-house theater that fills its schedule with a mixture of new German, European and international movies in the original with subtitles.
- Off Broadway features a combination of German, European and international movies, mostly with subtitles, as well as some older films.
Other smaller theaters also sometimes offer screenings with subtitles. But, unfortunately, even though we do have a lot of choice here in Cologne, oftentimes I still have to wait for movies to come out on DVD or Netflix before I watch them if I don’t want to endure the dub.