Undoubtedly one of Vienna’s most authentic institutions, since 2002 the Metro Kinokulturhaus has also been the headquarters of the Filmarchiv Austria, which, after taking over the building, also oversaw its renovation and continues to be a reference point for Austrian cinema today, offering, among other projects, also exhibitions and events.
A magical place to discover and rediscover the cinema of the present and the past
The long night of museums on Saturday, October 7, 2023 was the perfect opportunity to return to visit the Metro Kinokulturhaus, the cultural film house and one of the few remaining film architectures in Vienna. Located in a side street of the Kärntner Straße, not far from the Opera, the cinema is a living place of film and more generally cultural history. Moreover, since 2002 the Metro Kinokulturhaus has also been the headquarters of the Filmarchiv Austria, which, after taking over the building, also took care of its renovation and continues to be a reference point for Austrian cinema today, offering, among other projects, also very interesting exhibitions and events.
Undoubtedly one of Vienna’s most authentic institutions, the Metro Kinokulturhaus has hitherto had a relatively quiet existence, except for the numerous transformations and renewals it has had to undergo, all closely linked to the times and currents of the last 200 years or so. The building at Johannesgasse 4 has housed the Elysium entertainment venue since 1840, which later became a real theatre. The first film screenings for the audience date back to 1896, only a year after the brilliant invention of the Lumière brothers.
The well-known advent of National Socialism and the consequent annexation of Austria to the Third Reich forced the Metro Kinokulturhaus to make yet another change, becoming a theatre once again, this time a comedy theatre, under the name Komödie and the artistic direction of Leon Epp. After a brief closure due to World War II, the then theatre reopened, this time under the name Die Insel; the experience, which lasted only a few years, was also to be the penultimate stage before the final landing. From 1951, in fact, it officially became the Metro Kinokulturhaus, under the direction of Kiba for almost fifty years, until 1999.
The heart of the fervent activity of the Metro Kinokulturhaus is the historic cinema hall dating back to 1893, turned into a theatre in 1924. Completely clad in wood and with its interior decorated mainly in red, it is still one of the most beautiful cinemas in the city. The real house of film culture, the one that gives the Metro Kinokulturhaus its official name, is organised on two floors above this hall, made so after a major extension work.
There have been countless exhibitions on the theme of ‘film history’, often in conjunction with monographs and festivals, one of which is the upcoming Viennale, scheduled from October 19 to 31, 2023. With regard to the Viennale, a special mention goes to the new fifty-seat hall on the first floor, dedicated to the Austrian-American film producer Eric Pleskow, president of the United Artists and also of the above-mentioned Austrian international festival. Perfectly in line with the mood of the city it represents, the Metro Kinokulturhaus also aims at promoting films from a historical, cultural and social point of view, often focusing on rather old films which, precisely for this reason, deserve to be reintroduced and made known to the new generations, including my own, who are more curious than ever. Hurray for the Metro Kinokulturhaus! Hurray for cultural cinema!