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The Ufa cinemas were the cinemas of Universum Film AG, founded in 1917, which were operated by Ufa-Theater AG after their sale in 1956.

Photograph of the Ufa-Lichtspiele by Hans Schliepmann, Berlin 1924


On 18 December 1917, Universum Film AG (Ufa) was founded by a consortium led by Deutsche Bank board member Emil Georg von Stauß, whose cinemas were known as Ufa-Kinos.[1]

In addition to its film production facilities, Ufa owned a growing number of first-run theatres from the time of the Weimar Republic, including important ones such as the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin, which hosted many world premieres, and the Ufa-Palast in Hamburg, which was the largest cinema in Europe when it opened in 1929. In 1936, there were 109 cinemas, two years later 5446 cinemas..[2] and by 1942 the number had risen to 7042 cinemas due to territories occupied by Germany.[3]

In April 1956, the Ufa cinemas were acquired by a banking consortium led by Deutsche Bank and merged into a Ufa-Theater AG. Arno Hauke, the previous general trustee for UFI assets in the British occupation zone, became chairman of the board. In January 1964 the cinema chain passed into the ownership of Bertelsmann, followed in 1972 by the cinema entrepreneur Heinz Riech. Closely associated with Riech – and thus with the Ufa cinemas – is the concept of box theatres. The formerly large halls of the post-war period were usually divided into several small rooms, some of which offered only 20 to 30 seats.

After German reunification, Riech and his Düsseldorf company took over some of the cinemas in the former GDR. The Treuhandanstalt did not permit the takeover of individual cinemas, but obliged Ufa to take over a whole group of cinemas, some of which were also in very poor condition at unattractive locations and therefore unprofitable. Furthermore, Riech had to provide a two-year guarantee for the existence of these newly acquired cinemas.

The first cinema that Ufa took over in the new German states was the Metropol in Chemnitz, followed by the Capitol and Tivoli in Plauen. This was followed by the takeover of movie theaters in Gera, Weimar, Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Hoyerswerda, Frankfurt (Oder) and other locations.[Note 1] Important cinemas among them are the Rundkino (“Filmtheater Prager Straße”) in Dresden, the Kosmos and the Sojus in East Berlin.

Many of these locations had to be abandoned after the end of the guarantee period because they were unprofitable. In other cities, extensive renovations or new buildings were planned at the old locations, but these failed because the cities awarded the contract to build a multiplex cinema to competitors. Ufa, for example, withdrew from its Gera and Chemnitz locations in 1998. In the end, the theatre park taken over by the Treuhand proved to be an obstacle. The boom in large multiplex cinemas that began at the beginning of the 1990s was particularly noticeable in the new federal states, where there was a great need for modern cinemas. While competitors were able to negotiate relatively flexibly with the cities, even about new buildings, Ufa was tied to its land and real estate and was less able to act flexibly, since the protection of historical monuments had to be observed in the case of conversions or new buildings. In addition, the takeover of the cinemas from the Treuhand was expensive, and Ufa lacked the money for the necessary expansion during the multiplex boom.

In October 2002, the company went bankrupt. Within a few years, competitors Cinemaxx, UCI and Cinestar had built up modern cinema complexes and huge overcapacities. The Ufa Group was slow to follow suit and operated large numbers of outdated cinemas that attracted fewer and fewer visitors. After a short cooperation with the Cinemaxx group, the Ufa cinemas were completely taken over by the Lübeck-based competitor Cinestar. The name Ufa could continue to be used under license until 2004, after which the acquired cinemas were given the name Cinestar.[4]

On the right the UFA-Palast at Hamburg’s Gänsemarkt in the 1970s

Cinestar itself got into difficulties as a result of the takeover, combined with the general decline in attendance. In accordance with the purchase agreement, a number of less promising cinemas were returned to the insolvent Ufa chain, including those in Hamburg and Dresden. As the insolvency administrator was of the opinion that continued operation as a cinema was not viable due to the market situation, the properties were put up for sale while operations continued. Some of the buildings, most of which were in favourable city centre locations, were gutted or – like the almost 100-year-old location on Hamburg’s Gänsemarkt – completely demolished to make way for offices and shops. However, there are still Ufa Palaces in Dresden and Düsseldorf.

Major cinemas


In 1912/1913, the Ufa Marble House opened on Kurfürstendamm, near Breitscheidplatz. In 2001 there was the last screening and a large fashion chain moved in. The Ufa-Filmbühne Wien opened in 1913 on Kurfürstendamm as the Union-Palast with 850 seats. In 2000 the cinema was closed.

The Ufa-Palast am Zoo opened in 1919 with a seating capacity of 1740 and was expanded to 2165 seats six years later. It was one of the most important premiere cinemas of the 1920s and 1930s.[5] Before the opening of the Ufa-Palast in Hamburg with 2200 seats, it was the largest cinema in Germany.[6]

The Gloria Palace on Kurfürstendamm opened on 26 January 1926 with 1200 seats. After a new building in 1948 it was extended by the Gloriette. In 1998 the cinema was closed.

The Kosmos Ufa-Palast on Karl-Marx-Allee was reopened, after reconstruction, on 18 December 1996. The cinema, built in 1960-1962 by VEB Hochbau Friedrichshain, thus became the first multiplex cinema in Berlin and was equipped with 3400 seats.[7] In 2006, the cinema was closed by UFA and has since served as an event center.


The Ufa Crystal Palace in Dresden

The Ufa Kristallpalast between Prager Straße and St. Petersburger Straße opened 26 March 1998 with 2668 seats next to the Rundkino Dresden taken over from Ufa. The joint operation of the two venues (Rundkino: auditoriums 1-7, Kristallpalast: auditoriums 8-15) ended in 2003.


The Ufa-Palast Düsseldorf on Worringer Straße is the city’s first multiplex cinema. It consists of 13 halls with a total of 2988 seats.[8]


The Ufa-Palast on Gänsemarkt, inside the Deutschlandhaus, opened on 21 December 1929. At that time it was the largest cinema in Europe with 2665 seats. The Ufa-Palast was used until 1944, when a fire caused by an air raid severely damaged the auditorium and stage building.

The older Ufa cinema Lessing-Theater, also on Gänsemarkt, was used as a British troop cinema after the war and rebuilt in 1958 to reopen as the Ufa-Palast. It was replaced in 1997 by a new multiplex cinema on the same site, which was already demolished in 2006 to make way for offices and shops. Only a few hundred metres towards the Binnenalster, Ufa took over Streit’s Filmtheater in 1980 and Studio Kino in 1989 and operated them as Ufa arthouse cinemas with more sophisticated film programmes.[9] From 1978 to 1998, the Savoy Filmtheater belonged to the Ufa Group.[10]

The cinema at the Grindel, last called Grindel-Ufa-Palast, opened in 1959 as a premiere cinema. In 1995 it became Hamburg’s first multiplex cinema. The last screening took place on 26 March 2008. The demolition of the cinema – except for the foyer – took place from February to April 2009 to make way for offices, shops and condominiums.


Filmpalast in Cologne

Built in 1931 by Wilhelm Riphahn in a construction period of only five months, the Ufa-Palast in Cologne was one of the most spectacular buildings of that time. With a seating capacity of 3000, it was for a long time the largest cinema in West Germany. On August 16, 1956, the Heinz Rühmann film “Der Hauptmann von Köpenick” was premiered, followed by the premiere of the Hans Albers film “Der Greifer” on March 20, 1958. The modernised cinema building was taken over by the Cinestar Group in 2002 under the name “Filmpalast” and had 13 cinema halls with 2226 seats. After the Cinestar Group was unable to agree on a future plan for the cinema in negotiations with the property owners (it was a question of investing in a modernisation of the cinema in return for a reduction in rent), the last screening was on Sunday 28 March 2010. The late screenings were already no longer taking place.

In the summer of 2014, the complex was acquired by local investor Johannes Füngeling, who extensively refurbished the building. Under the operator Helmut Brunotte, who already owns several cinemas of the German association Cineplex in the area, the cinema wanted to reopen in autumn 2015 with a total of 1400 seats in eight halls.[11] The reopening of the Cologne Filmpalast took place on 15 December 2016 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was shown.[12]


The Luitpold Theatre was opened in 1929 and closed in 1974.


The Ufa-Palast in Stuttgart

With over 4200 seats, the Ufa-Palast Stuttgart on Rosensteinstraße was one of the largest multiplex cinemas in Germany. It has 13 cinema halls. On 29 May 2020, the operators announced that due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the associated economic consequences, the cinema complex would no longer open.[13][14]


The Ufa cinema opened in 1938 and was previously called “Zentral”.

Web links


  1. 76 cinemas were taken over by Ufa-Theater AG in 1991/1992: Sojus and Kosmos in Berlin, Capitol Bad Liebenwerda, Kammerlichtspiele, Südlichtspiele and Weltspiegel in Cottbus, Lichtspiele Elsterwerda, Theater der Jugend Frankfurt/Oder, Filmtheater Friedensgrenze in Guben, Elsterstrand-Lichtspiele Herzberg/Elster, Glück auf Lichtspiele Lauchhammer, Regina-Lichtspiele Lauta, Spreewald-Lichtspiele Lübben, Passage Senftenberg, Filmbühne Wittichenau, Filmpalast Aschersleben, Kurtheater Blankenburg/Harz, Theater des Friedens Burg, Palast-Theater and Zentral-Theater Dessau, Capitol Eisleben, Theater des Friedens Gardelegen, Union-Theater Genthin, Union-Theater Halberstadt, Roland-Lichtspiele Haldensleben, Prisma-Filmtheater Halle-Neustadt, Goethe-Lichtspiele Halle/Saale, Volkslichtspiele Havelberg, Theater des Friedens Klötze, Erich-Franz-Lichtspiele Köthen, Oli-Lichtspiele, Palast-Theater, Scala, Theater der Freundschaft, Studio-Kino Moritzplatz, Theater des Friedens and Theater des Nordens in Magdeburg, Filmtheater Merseburg, Filmtheater der Freundschaft Naumburg, DEHA-Lichtspiele Oschersleben, Cinema-Lichtspiele Osterburg, Theater der Freundschaft Querfurt, Theater der Freundschaft Salzwedel, Zentral-Theater Sangerhausen, Apollo-Lichtspiele and Astoria-Lichtspiele in Schönebeck, Theater des Friedens Stassfurt, Capitol-Theater am Kornmarkt Stendal, Empor-Lichtspiele Tangermünde, Union-Filmtheater Weißenfels, Capitol-Lichtspiele and Volkslichtspiele Wernigerode, Central-Theater Wittenberg, Capitol-Theater Zeitz, Theater der Freundschaft Zerbst, Rundkino Dresden, Filmtheater Großschönau, Filmeck Hoyerswerda, Filmtheater Löbau, Centraltheater Schirgiswalde, Kristall-Lichtspiele Weißwasser, Merkur Arnstadt, Filmtheater Bad Klosterlausnitz, Filmtheater Titania Eisenach, Karl-Marx-Lichtspiele Eisenberg, Panorama Palasttheater und Union-Theater Erfurt, Metropol und Palast-Theater Gera, U.T. Greiz, Filmbühne Sömmerda, Osterburg-Theater Weida, Theater des Friedens Weimar, Welt-Echo, Europa 70 and Metropol in Chemnitz. – cf. Kino Filmtheater Address Book. With official data from the records of the Association of Film Distributors as of 31 January 1992, Cultura-Verlag, Munich 1992.

Individual references

  1. German Historical Museum (retrieved 14 February 2010)
  2. Francis Courtade, Pierre Cadars: History of film in the Third Reich. C. Hanser, 1975, ISBN 978-3-446-12064-8, p. 32 (limited preview in Google Book Search).
  3. Klaus Kreimeier: The Ufa Story: A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945. University of California Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-520-22069-0, p. 319 (English, limited preview in Google Book Search).
  4. CineStar renounces the Ufa name – Blickpunkt:Film In:, 22 December 2004, retrieved 25 September 2018.
  5. Ufa Palace at
  6. L’Estrange Fawcett: The World of Film. Amalthea-Verlag, Zurich, Leipzig, Vienna 1928, p. 122 (translated by C. Zell, supplemented by S. Walter Fischer)
  7. The Cosmos UFA Palace Berlin(Memento of 16 January 2002 in the Web Archive
  8. UFA: Hall plans In:, retrieved 14 June 2018.
  9. Volker Reißmann: Letzter Vorhang am Jungfernstieg – Nach 57 Jahren wurde das Streit’s-Kino geschlossen. In: Film- und Fernsehmuseum Hamburg e.V.. (ed.): Hamburger Flimmern. No. 20, 2013, pp. 11-15 (PDF [ retrieved 22 March 2020]).
  10. Gerhard Witte:Hamburg’s cinema jewel, the Savoy, has 21 December 2018, retrieved 13 April 2020.
  11. Old Ufa-Palast on the Cologne Ring becomes a Cineplex cinema Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger
  12. Simon Lorenz: Hohenzollernring : Ufa film palace in Cologne revives. In: Kölnische Rundschau.( [retrieved 19 December 2016]).
  13. The final curtain has fallen Press release of the operator, May 29, 2020
  14. When the Ufa-Palast experienced its great times