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"At the Border Movie Theaters: With Rubbish for Freedom!" Article from Blickpunkt (April 1956)

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There were hardly any special showings that were not attended under these conditions; and there are those familiar with the industry who have demonstrated that hardly a border movie house is in poor condition physically. In fact, many of these movie houses have been able to open new theaters in other districts. That prompted the association of film distributors about three years ago to demand from theater owners a fee for the “East movies” as well, half of the usual rental fee. Still, some of the border theaters tried to show a comedy of real quality instead of a trite one. However, they had financial success – the basis of every movie theater – only if their surroundings brought them enough interested viewers, not only “toughs” whose idea of a good time is a knockout. Anyone who has time only in the late afternoon or in the evening has no choice but to go to the other Western movie theaters, in any case. It would be appropriate to have “special showings” of higher quality for these Eastern visitors, who are even paying the higher admission prices, even if certain discounts are given for the regular shows. But they are handicapped.

We do not want to address the sanctimonious arguments by the Eastern press, which claims that young people were being incited to criminal acts by the films. And the problem would be hardly less controversial if the theater owners were not able to say that every film shown has already been reviewed by self-regulation, so that there cannot be any concerns. However, in spite of this there is little doubt about the value of these celluloid products meant to document the West’s “cultural aid.” Why should one propagate something that is controversial even here?

Less would be more!

As long as the taxpayer does not contribute from his own pocket one need not raise the question whether a different choice in programming would be appropriate or not. But the annual entertainment tax of 20% amounts to about 600,000 DM for the approximately 2.5 million visitors to the border theaters. Why should one subsidize something when the furnishings of the movie theaters suggest that their survival is not at stake? A few owners of border theaters are saying that attendance would be no smaller at a ticket price of 30 Pfennigs, and it would not even be necessary to forego the entertainment tax, because it is covered by the revenue. To be sure, an amount of 600,000 DM hardly registers in a budget for the city of Berlin of two billion. However, even that sum does not seem appropriate to finance crime stories. That leaves the question: should one not reduce the number of border theaters to one or two per sector? On the condition, however, that they show really good films, and do so even in the evening program as “special showings” for Eastern visitors?

Source: Werner Berger, “In den Grenzkinos: Mit Schmarren für die Freiheit!” [“At the Border Movie Theaters: With Rubbish for Freedom!”], Blickpunkt 51, April 1956, pp. 16-17.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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