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The workshop cinema is crisis-proof: The Freedom of Munich Midnights

The last subway has left, the Späti closes, but the screen is on. The midnight cinema violates the cultural curfew.

Illuminated street at night in downtown Munich

Munich at night, quiet enough to ponder your thoughts Photo: Alexander Pohl/imago

What do Berliners miss about Munich’s nightlife? The 24-hour late night trains or subways that run all night long, for example.

Munich – at least we don’t know any other way – rolls up the sidewalks after midnight. All of Munich? No. The art house scene has been resisting the cultural curfew since times when Munich was still wild like today’s Berlin, the former Bonn was the seat of the German government and the former Berlin was a divided, self-circulating political issue of global importance.

Daring and forgotten films

To this day, the Munich workshop cinema has stuck to the midnight cinema. “Daring and forgotten films, wicked, damned, laughed at cinema pieces have had their home in the workshop cinema since it was founded in 1974,” it says on the homepage.

And for almost as long, since 1977, the Munich Museumslichtspiele have been putting on the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” twice a week at midnight. Munich Midnights are more than just an example of the freedom that independent cinema makers can take here: they are the best symbol of it.

The art house scene in particular is suffering from the gigantic hall rents – which is now the reason for the closure of the film theater at Sendlinger Tor, which has lost in court to an intransigent tenant.

But many look despite historical Lowest visitor numbers in Corona times positive forward. In 2020, only 38 million visitors came to cinemas nationwide, compared to 118 million in the previous year. In 2022 the number has increased again to almost 80 million. Few had to close: there were 1,734 cinemas in Germany in 2019, and in 2022 there will only be four fewer.

The desire to carry on

Wolfgang Bihlmeir, who is a member of the workshop cinema management team, is convinced that Bavarian arthouse cinemas are doing comparatively well at the moment. At least for those in Munich and therefore also for his own. Although the workshop cinema has not received any funding from the BKM and therefore the federal government for the second time in a row – which means that 7,500 euros are missing from the annual budget for the second time – the cinema is neither running out of money nor the desire to continue.

As long as the city of Munich and the Free State support the Munich arthouse cinemas with mid-four-digit amounts annually, the workshop cinema can compensate for the lost federal bonus. Bihlmeir sounds disappointed when he reports on the BKM decision – but he is not worried.

Alternative aesthetic discourse

A work of art, wrote Émile Zola, is a piece of creation viewed through a temperament. In the workshop cinema, a work of art – i.e. a film worth seeing – is a corner of reality that is filtered out from the mass by the temperament of four passionate cinema makers.

They write what they like in the program booklet and promote the alternative aesthetic discourse: Iranian, Japanese or Georgian theme weeks, homages to individual artists such as the documentary filmmaker Herbert Fell, the Swiss auteur filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein, the director Philipp Hartmann, a desert film series or tender odes Film composers like Peter Thomas.

It’s clear: there are similar cinemas and projects in Berlin, the Brotfabrik or the Krokodil cinema, for example.

What do Munich residents still miss in Berlin? The quiet loneliness that lies over the half-dark city when you wander through empty streets after the late night show because the last subway has left – saturated with new impressions, filled with fresh ideas and delicately dusted with popcorn crumbs.

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