A couple of weeks ago we had night without children (they were having a sleepover in the KiTa – worthy of another blog post). But what a rarity! Seeing a film was the obvious choice – prior to parenthood we went to the movies all the time. But it had been a beautiful summer’s day and the thought of spending the long light evening in a dark cinema didn’t seem to fit. The answer? Freiluftkino (open-air cinema).
Freiluftkinos barely exist in the UK, I suppose because the weather is too consistently inclement. I do know of one: the central courtyard of Somerset House in the middle of London screens movies for a few weeks in the summer – but that’s just a big screen and lots of people sitting on hard concrete using plastic bags as make-shift groundsheets and tucking into packets of crisps. It simply pales in comparison to the properly established infrastructure of the Freiluftkinos here.
We’re lucky. Where we live in Prenzlauerberg is just round the corner from one of Berlin’s finest, which is at the far end of Volkspark Friedrichshain called Freiluftkino Friedrichshain. I know of three others scattered around Berlin (see list at the end for details). As our experience of such places was entirely limited to the above-mentioned plastic bags in Somerset House, our expectations were low. Towards 8pm we wandered through our neighborbood to the park, loaded with the picnic blanket and a bagful of snacks. We were soon to realise that in Freiluftkino-accustomed countries this was all completely unnecessary. Having paid for our tickets (the service was impeccable), we entered through the tall wooden gates into a sectioned off part of the park. The area was vast – with tables and chairs set out at the front, rows of amphitheatre-style benches going up round the sides and the back, and lots of lush grass for picnickers should they chose to lie there. The screen too was bigger than anything like that I’d ever seen before.
We picked a spot on the benches and then realised that everyone else was collecting little cushions to make the evening more comfortable, which we duly found standing in a great stack, free to all, and of course took one each too. And then we spied the snack hut, or Kiosk as the Germans would say. My other half – always open to popcorn – strolled over and came back armed with beers, water, organic Studentenfutter (trail mix) and a perfectly-sized (i.e. to too monstrous) tub of sweet popcorn. We could have had Brezels and wine and ice-creams and sweeties should the urge have taken us. The Kiosk was of course open throughout the show.
Whilst waiting for the film to start we gazed around at the other people. The range was typically Berlin – young, old, singles, couples, hipsters, office workers, families with children in strollers all wrapped up and expected to doze off to sleep … Everyone was welcome here. As chance would have it, our night off fell in that particular cinema’s Berlinale (Berlin’s film festival) week, so the film (Diary of a Teenage Girl) as stylish and eccentric and utterly charming as you might expect of a film shown at the Berlinale. And at the end of the evening, after we’d all applauded vigorously (as is custom in German cinemas), we filed out, returning our empty bottles and cushions in an orderly way, before sliding off into the dark night. The only downside, had I not been accompanied by a tall German male, is that I would have felt rather frightened walking through the unlit park late at night – I only saw women in groups.
If you ever find yourself at a loose end on a summer’s evening in Berlin (or indeed elsewhere in Germany) and fancy a film but don’t want to miss out on the day’s last heat, then check out the local Freiluftkinos – whether it’s a romantic evening for two, a night out with friends, an adventure with slightly older children, or whiling away time on your own, I couldn’t recommend it more.
- Freiluftkinos in Berlin
- Freiluftkino Friedrichshain
- Freiluftkino Kreuzberg
- Freiluftkino Rehberge
- Freiluftkino Hasenheide