berlinale generic richard hubner

Source: Richard Hubner

Berlinale Palast

Incoming Berlinale chiefs Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek are dealing with a set of unexpected organisational challenges as they attempt to tie down structural details of their inaugural edition at the helm.

Local German media is reporting that with just three and a half months to go before the landmark 70th edition of the Berlinale unfolds February 20 to March 3, 2020, the management team has yet to confirm the configuration of the festival’s screening venues.

It is now resigned to losing the eight screens of the CineStar multiplex in the Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz.

The venue, which hosted Panorama and Forum screenings in the past, closes at the end of this year alongside the neighbouring Imax screen. Local Berlin newspaper B.Z. reported the seating and projection equipment were scheduled to be dismantled by mid-January.

The festival’s head of press and publicity Frauke Greiner told Screen “alternative scenarios” were already on the table, including options to move into new screening venues as well as expand the use of existing venues.

Greiner dismissed suggestions the festival would use the new UCI Luxe 14-screen, 1,600-seat multiplex, situated in the former East Berlin neighbourhood of Friedrichshain, close to the Mercedes Benz Arena and opposite the East Side Gallery.

While this new complex could offer state-of-the-art facilities, its location some five-and-a-half kilometres from Potsdamer Platz (a 25-minute journey by taxi) meant it was a non-starter for the festival’s organisational team as they mulled potential new venues.

Berlinale Palast

One positive development, is the new lease of life granted to Theater am Potsdamer Platz following news the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group is locating its first European show there in November 2020. There had been speculation over its future in the local media.

The 1,750-seat venue serves as the Berlinale Palast during the festival, hosting the screenings of competition films as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

In a further organisational curve ball, however, it has emerged Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live show will be based in the Club Theater (formerly known as Adagio) in the basement of the Berlinale Palast from mid-January.

This means the venue is unlikely to be available for the Berlinale’s traditional reception after the opening film on February 20, although the festival has been in contact with the new operators to explore the possibility.

As a concession to the festival, the producers of Magic Mike Live will not run show during the Berlinale so as not to clash with the red carpet on Marlene-Dietrich-Platz.

B.Z. has reported, however, the show’s operators are likely to have demanded compensation from the festival for the loss in revenues during this 10-day period.

The festival said it would only announce the final configuration of the venues available for festival and European Film Market screenings once the contracts had been signed.

Sponsors, transport challenges

In another challenging development, the Berlin media is also reporting two of the festival’s main sponsors are no longer on board.

German watch manufacturer Glashütte Original has not renewed its contract to sponsor the €50,000 documentary award, won by Sudanese director Suhaib Gasmelbari’s Talking About Trees in 2019.

Chinese-owned, Belgian jewellers Leysen 1855, a long-time partner of the festival, is also no longer listed as being involved.

Greiner said a new partner for the documentary award would be announced soon, saying: “We are having good discussions with new interested parties and we are already talking with existing partners about extensions of contracts past 2020.”

In the backdrop, an ongoing large-scale renovation of the 100-year-old Potsdamer Platz U-Bahn station is expected to pose a headache for festival goers this February.

The work, which is scheduled to last until autumn 2021, will affect Berlinale visitors travelling on the U2 line westwards from the east of Potsdamer Platz.