Berlin's Tempelhof Airport to possibly become film production center

7th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The German film studio where Fritz Lang's famed 'Metropolis' was produced may relocate to new and larger facilities at the recently closed airport.

Berlin -- Historic German movie makers, Babelsberg Film Studios, have announced that Berlin's recently closed Tempelhof airport may become their new home.

Bosses at Babelsberg Film Studios have proposed a concept to transform the site in the heart of Berlin into a major movie production center.

The airport, closed in October 2008, is famed for its role in the Allied Airlift of 1948-49.

Besides making use of Tempelhof's voluminous airport hangars, Babelsberg company chiefs say their plans would involve the creation of a public events center, along with offices and apartment complexes for film workers and artists.

Babelsberg chief Carl Woebcken says that, if approved by the Berlin authorities, the project will enable the film company to "greatly expand studio production capacity."

The use of two hangars alone will "increase our studio production facilities by 15,000 square metres, enabling us to build major-sized sets there," he said.

The Tempelhof airport closure has come at a time when Studio Babelsberg has been facing capacity problems, owing to increased international film production demands and the end of their studio lease in the Babelsberg suburb of Potsdam, 30 kilometers southwest of Berlin.

The film company feels that a strong presence in Tempelhof would greatly improve its ranking in the movie-making industry.

Currently, the Berlin Senate is running an "ideas competition," with a decision expected at the end of January on the future role of the Tempelhof site.

Berlin's Mayor Klaus Wowerweit has faced strong criticism in the past year for his role in pushing the closure of Tempelhof, despite investors' interest in running it as a short-haul inner city airport or as a medical center with convenient airport facilities.

But, despite numerous protests, the city government went ahead with its closure. The airport had been incurring heavy losses for years.

As for Studio Babelsberg, it was first built near Potsdam, south of Berlin, in 1911, and won world renown when the Fritz Lang movie Metropolis was made there in 1926. Films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu and The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich followed.

The bubble burst with the Nazis' rise to power. The company was turned into a propaganda factory, leading to an exodus of talent. Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder were the most prominent directors to leave for Hollywood.

After the war, Studio Babelsberg became host to a different kind of propaganda in communist East Germany. Until 1990, about 700 feature films, more than 150 children's films and countless hours of television programs were produced there, many of them with a heavy socialist bias.

Sold to a new group of investors in September 2004, Studio Babelsberg went through a lean spell five years ago, but things perked up in 2007 when 12 major movies were made there.

As a result, a profit of 6 million euros (9.3 million dollars) was posted by the company after a loss of 2.7 million euros in 2006.

Recent movies include the Tom Cruise World War II blockbuster Valkyrie, and The Reader, based on the German novel by Bernhard Schlink, starring Kate Winslet.

Clive Freeman/DPA/Expatica

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