„Dolby Surround“ was not an issue at the end of the 19th century, when Kiel first began to discover „cinema“. Movies were still silent at the time, so music was made by hand, often it was just an organ that would support the dramatics while also drowning out the rattling projectors. But in 1912, large movie theaters such as „Billströms Lichtspiele“ on Brunswiker Street 25, advertised their own house orchestra – and the Filmerklärer made sure that the audience also understood what was flickering on the screen.
In the beginning, „film“ consisted only of various film snippets – for a maximum of one minute – which were shown one after the other, which today would be dubbed “docu”: inaudible roaring lions, Eskimos at the North Pole or Indians on the warpath, brought astonishment to the audience. The entrance fees were steep and corresponded to 20 euros per ticket today.
In 1895 the first movies were shown. They were under thirty minutes long and contained simple everyday depictions. The first movie ever shown was simply people leaving a factory, and it was a sensation! In 1903, “The Great Train Robbery” was the first feature film made- it was 12-minutes long.
The origins of the cinema began at fairs, where even three-dimensional images could be shown with stereoscopes, and with the Kaiserpanorama, up to twenty people could marvel simultaneously at several pictures in a series through peepholes. From this „panoptics“ emerged, resulting in the first traveling cinemas, from which moving images slowly and steadily moved into variety and small theaters.
The first film screening of Kiel – first called „Living Photography“, then later the „Performance of Cinematographic Images“ – took place on October 1, 1896 in the “Kaiserkrone“, which was a variety theater located on Breiten Weg in Brunswik and in 1910 became a cinema. When the “CinemaxX“ opened in 1995 Kiel had already seen almost 100 cinemas.
In 1914, at a time when movie theaters began to boom, Kiel‘s oldest cinema, the „Studio“, was built on the site of a former police detention center. Even though heroes rode across the screen at that time, the true hero stood behind the projector. Being a projectionist was almost equal to a suicide mission, because until 1950, film rolls were highly combustible, yet only thick, glowing carbon rods brought enough light to project the film onto the screen.
At this time, there were also initial warnings about the decay of morals and values, brutalization and the competition between theaters and cinematographers. Even Kurt Tucholsky warned against „losing yourself in illusory worlds“ and called for film censorship, which soon followed. Initially, local authorities would decide at the premiere if a film could continue to be shown. From 1906 on, a film had to be submitted to the Central Police Department and a „censorship card“ was handed out. The National Socialists changed the censorship law to arbitrariness in order to be able to exclude any film that displeased them.
In the creation of the Basic Law of the new Federal Republic, censorship was renounced entirely and even banned. However, the Voluntary Self-Control (FSK) was established in 1949, which regulates the age rating of films in any form. The boundaries of a film – or of any other text, image or sound contribution – are set by the Federal Examination Office for Media Harmful to Young People (BPjM), however, they can only apply an index upon request and then can restrict or prohibit both performance and dissemination.
Something similar happened in the 70s of the last century. On Sunday mornings, young people would rush to the „Junior Cinema“ in the Central, the Metro and in the bridge at 10 o‘clock- or they would sit in the smoker‘s lodge of the Savoy Cinema on Holstenstrasse on weekdays and enjoy the free lunchtime screenings of all the Vorfilme (today : „Trailers“) all in the hopes to catch a glimpse of the „schoolgirl report“. Meanwhile on the Asmus-Bremer-Platz, adult Kielers would demonstrate for the right to continue airing the (at the time) highly erotic film „Emanuelle – Die Schule der Lust”. Today, the „requirements“ for indexing a film are much higher.
Central Kino, Eckernförder Str. 20, Kiel
Central Kino, Eckernförder Str. 20, Kiel
Foto: Stadtarchiv Kiel 2.3 Magnussen67593
These cinemas have also undergone several changes over the course of time and have mastered many crises. The heyday of cinemas lasted almost 50 years, then the TV was invented, later the video, and now the Internet. Cinemas became smaller and more diverse. Large halls became „boxy cinemas“, there were car and outdoor cinemas – a new cinema landscape was created. Besides the economically oriented big cinema centers, more and more cinema owners proved that character was a better livelihood than competition.

In Kiel, there are some notable cinemas in this sense: The „Studio“ has three regular halls and a diverse, up-to-date program. It is considerably more affordable than the large commercial cinemas and even invites you to a free screening of Tatort on Sundays. Or there is the „Metro“, the „family cinema“, which also offers live events. The „Pumpe“ has an exquisite program cinema, and the „Traum-Kino“ of the Traumfabrik has an interesting program that is not afraid of airing documentaries or original films and even has a „children‘s cinema“ on the weekend. There is also the „Hansafilmpalast“ is unique with it’s cozy 50 seat audience and who can forget the rather private „Bunkerkino“ of the Fachochschule which has an attached café … All these cinemas do not have the same comforts of today‘s big movie palaces, but score with ideas, personality and very sympathetic prices.

Text : Robert Kühl · Foto: Stadtarchiv Kiel 2.3 Magnussen67593