Taking Off in the Sputnik Cinema

Our new guest author Anabel will share her Berlin discoveries with you every once in a while. Follow her stroll through the concrete jungle:

It does happen relatively rarely that I find myself on a tiny rooftop balcony instead of the movie theater that I actually planned on visiting. With a bottle of lime beer in my hand and an excellent view of a merry-go-round.

But last Sunday I was reminded once again that I do live in Berlin – and that, around here, nothing should strike you as a surprise. So if you happen to be looking for the cinema ‘Sputnik,’ you will find the hidden entrance to it in a backyard’s backyard. That the stairs shoot five floors high and that there is no reliably functioning elevator shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, either. And that, upon reaching the upper floor, a glowing red little world with tiny balconies opens up unexpectedly should actually be considered logical – Berlin, you know.

Nevertheless. I’m still surprised. While sipping on my little lime beer, I delightedly watch the cinema’s neighbor, how he silently and serenely waters the plants of his roof oasis, the generous evening sun cast upon him, all alone, up here, where Berlin is slumbering along so idyllically. I seriously cannot understand why we have a balcony to ourselves. Shouldn’t all of Berlin be up here? Admittedly, it’s a fair weather Sunday around 6 p.m. People who actually have a life are probably gathering around a kettle grill in the Schlesischer Busch, frying filled zucchini.  Oh well, more peace and quiet to me!

The beginnings of the Sputnik are as legendary as its location. “Approximately” 25 years ago its doors opened, but this can’t be said with certainty. In any case it was brought to life as an arthouse theater. Why the Sputnik is called “Sputnik,” however, is more or less unknown. That, at the time of the cinema’s opening, it was impossible to get a hold of proper chairs apparently did not present an insurmountable obstacle: turns out that bricks are also a suitable material to form decent seating opportunities. I repeat: bricks. But again, the unexpected sight of a theater full of brick seats should not surprise Berliners, either. And – I have tested them – thanks to the cushions these things are actually comfortable, too. (The genuinely warm-hearted staff behind the bar remarks that there might actually have been wooden benches at the very beginning, though this seems to be yet another mythical issue).

Shortly before the movie’s beginning I want to reward myself with some popcorn. “Oh, we’re a popcorn-free cinema,” I am informed by a friendly voice. The statement sounds so firm and decided that I find myself wondering how it came to be this way? “Ah, the popcorn topic,” a member of the staff explains, “it’s an ideological war!” Some employees are arguably pro popcorn, others against it; the whole dilemma, he says, is currently unsolvable.

One thing, however, is for sure: the Sputnik continues to be a place that weighs importance to quality. It sees itself as a cinema of sophistication and is eager to cater Berlin with undubbed original versions and fun events: every third Wednesday of each month, for instance, filmmakers can – without having to sign up for it – present their own short films; these evenings, I am told, are well-attended and one can certainly forget about that private balcony on that occasion. Moreover, thematic movie series also seem to appeal to the public, and Sputnik has quite some of them going for itself.

Ultimately, it is moments like the refreshing discovery of a Sputnik balcony that suddenly remind me of the fact that, beyond our doormats, there is a city that currently resembles a gigantic playground more than a nation’s capital. And now, now we’re steadily approaching summer – in no time we’ll be back to gathering around Brandenburg lakes and in beer gardens and on Teufelsberg or airfields to fly our colorful kites.

But despite the beautiful weather Berliners don’t have to miss out on movies: Since mid-May the open-air theater INSEL at Cassiopeia’s is back. This, ladies and gentlemen, means that Berlin’s summer can basically be experienced as a handy comprehensive package: with its combination of screenings, beer garden, reclining chairs, free blanket-rental and barbecues it is definitely at the top of my list. And– rumor has it –  at this particular open-air cinema, popcorn has won the ideological battle.

Text & Fotos: Anabel

Kino Sputnik

Hasenheide 54, 10967 Berlin. 3rd backyard, 5th floor.

Körtestrasse 15-17, 10967 Berlin. 1st backyard, 5th floor.

U7 U-Stop Südstern

Telephone: 030/ 694 11 47


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