Picture palaces

Christian Bräuer and Georg Kloster head up the Yorck Kinogruppe. They’ve become Berlin’s largest cinema operator and recently opened a new movie theatre between Hardenbergstraße and Kurfürstendamm

Christian Bräuer and Georg Kloster (from left to right) © Yorck Kinogruppe/Oliver Walterscheid

Back in the day, Berlin was a big deal in the world of cinema. And Kurfürstendamm Boulevard was its Hollywood – only better. The ‘Ku’damm’ boasted more than just movie theatres; it was home to cinema palaces with real marble and elegant curved staircases.

Film historian Siegfried Kracauer once called these grand movie theatres “optical fairylands”. The legendary ‘Gloria’ cinema screened the world’s very first talkie as well as the premiere of The Blue Angel, which made Marlene Dietrich a star overnight. But that was a long time ago. As the era of the multiplex dawned, these erstwhile picture palaces lost their appeal and were repurposed into upscale clothing stores and parking lots. The Ku’damm still played a vital role in the city, just not in the world of cinema. Today, this situation is changing again. Early September saw the opening of the delphi LUX at the Yva Bogen area near the Ku’damm. This new complex holds seven cinemas, each with its own design and state-of-the-art technology. Audiences visit the delphi LUX not for the latest blockbusters but to enjoy films that celebrate the art of cinema.

Georg Kloster and Christian Bräuer head up Yorck Kinogruppe, the cinema group that runs the delphi LUX. Launched over 35 years ago with the rescue of the Yorck Cinema in Kreuzberg, today, the company is the largest cinema operator in Berlin.

“We’ve been growing continuously for the past ten years”, says Bräuer, 45, a sharply dressed man sitting in Yorck’s offices on Rankestraße in Charlottenburg. In fact, Yorck-Kino GmbH has saved many cinemas, including the Kino International and today’s Odeon, the English-language cinema previously known as ‘Silvia’. These are highly unique movie houses, each with its own distinctive image and film repertoire. This is what makes Yorck so exceptional.

Kloster and Bräuer never wanted to be the biggest, but what about the best? Perhaps. The boldest? Yes, definitely. While Bräuer handles the financial side, Kloster manages the programme schedule, which is an increasingly difficult task due to the sheer influx of great new films. “Georg [Kloster] is quite special, he’s got a daring side that most people don’t have”, says Bräuer. Kloster’s bold approach led him to introduce films such as Victoria, Oh Boy (A Coffee in Berlin) and Toni Erdmann long before they were prize-winning box-office hits. As Bräuer notes, this is the very reason Kloster was named Europe’s best cinema operator. Kloster, 61, in a full beard and chequered lumberjack shirt, sheepishly waves off the praise: “Sure, but that was twelve years ago”.

Bräuer and Kloster don’t appear to have lost any of the boldness of their early years. In fact, the two have once again proven their enterprising approach by choosing the Yva Bogen as the site of their latest project. To them, the area and the infrastructure are a dream: “At the same time, however, it’s also a major challenge”, says Kloster, noting that neighbouring Hardenbergplatz continues to be one of the city’s problem zones. And yet, like so often in life, somebody had to take the first bold step. “The people of Charlottenburg are great audiences that simply love cinema”, adds Kloster. And now those audiences once again have the optical fairylands they need for that perfect cinematic experience.

Stefanie Paul
Kluge Köpfe 2017