Apollo Kino, Vienna:
Art-Deco Cinema with a story - Part I

The Apollo Kino is a traditional Art Deco movie theatre - today a modern multi-screen one

The Apollo Kino is a cinema or movie theatre in the sixth district of Vienna or Mariahilf. It is situated in an Art Deco building right next to the Haus des Meeres concrete tower and about 50 metres from where I lived once. It was originally opened in 1929 - then with a single theatre that seated an impressive 1,500 people. This made it the second-biggest cinema of Austria (after the Busch Kino in the second district that held 1,800 visitors); today, it is a modern multi-screen cinema with 12 screens and halls that seat 2,160 people.

The Apollo Kino is noteworthy for its architecture, but it is also its size that puts it into a special position within Vienna′s movie scene. The history of the Apollo is surprisingly colourful. Originally, the site contained the Baroque Palais Kaunitz. The Kaunitz are old Bohemian nobility with strong ties to diplomacy and the Habsburg court especially in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Palais was used as a school and in 1903, parts of it and the gardens were sold to the lawyer Ludwig Herz.

He had the concession to built commercial and residential buildings as well as a small theatre on the site. In 1904, a block of buildings was completed that allowed Herz to let three houses with apartments, a hotel and the theatre. On the opening day, Herz committed suicide because of financial difficulties. The Apollo Theater was in direct competition with the Ronacher in the first district and could soon beat it in revenue. It was one of Vienna′s most popular cabaret theatres, run by the director (and new owner) Ben Tiber.

Apollo Movie Theatre after WWI

However, after WWI, it suffered a similar fate as the nemesis Ronacher: The theatre failed to find internationally acknowledged stars and had to be closed in 1928. The Kiba, the city of Vienna′s cinema management company, purchased the Apollo this very year. They hired the architect Carl Witzmann to do a design study. This was at the peak of the "golden age" of cinemas and Witzmann was one of the country′s most highly regarded specialist architects for cinemas.

 Matching with the political situation in Vienna, he decided to stick with red as the primary colour of the Apollo Cinema: Ground floor, fašade, furniture - even wall paper. The Apollo was opened in 1929 as a silent film theatre - not quite state of the art, in 1929 there were already several sound cinemas operating in the US and Europe. A few months later, the Kiba tried to "upgrade" the Apollo in terms of technology by buying a "Christie-Unit Organ", a sophisticated instrument that was supposed to spice up the experience of a silent movie.

However, they soon realised that the rise of the sound movie was more than just a short fashion and in 1930, the theatre was modernised and finally became one of Vienna′s most popular. Ever since, the Apollo is often used for movie premiers.

Continue with "Apollo Kino Theatre - Part II"

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Apollo Kino Cinema

City of Vienna: Films and Cinemas of Vienna