Plexiglass and staggered seating: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen

Cinemas in Germany are beginning to reopen - but with strict rules. Here's a look at what to expect if you venture back to the Big Screen.

Plexiglass and staggered seating: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen
Plexiglass between the seats of the Cineplex Alhambra in Berlin, where theatres don't yet have an opening date. Photo: DPA

Up until March, most people did not have to give a second thought to going to a movie theatre in Germany. But that had all changed by mid-month, when Kinos across the country closed their doors due to the coronavirus epidemic. 

Yet cinemas around the country are beginning to welcome guests again – albeit with strict hygiene and social distancing rules.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Which restrictions are changing from Monday May 25th?

The first cinemas have already opened nationwide, including some in Hesse, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Rhineland-Palatinate. 

On Wednesday May 27th Hamburg will follow suit, as will Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday May 28th.

In the coming days re-openings have been announced for North Rhine-Westphalia on May 30th, Baden-Württemberg on June 1st, Brandenburg on June 6th  and Bavaria on June 15th.

But what will cinema attendance look like in the future?

Can you still choose your seats?

Choosing freely where to sit will likely be a thing of the past. Instead, many cinemas are asking their customers to buy their tickets in advance online for specific seats. However, in order to maintain the prescribed distances, not all seats will be available. 

Couples and friends may sit next to each other when booking together, but the current rules require a 1.5 metre distance to the next visitor. 

Cultural institutions around Germany, which have also been closed since mid-March, are also planning staggered seating in order to maintain the distance.

The Berliner Ensemble tweeted a photo on Tuesday of how it's planning to re-welcome guests again. 

Yet how exactly cinemas will enforce social distancing rules when booking is not yet clear everywhere

“Between the seats, which can be booked online as blocks of two, corresponding seats are blocked for the required distance and remain free,” said Cinemaxx managing director Frank Thomsen.

There will likely also be plexiglass between blocks of seats.

According to Christine Berg from the board of directors of HDF Kino, ticket systems could possibly also be modified so that the system automatically blocks the surrounding seats when a booking is made. 

Low capacity of moviegoers

However, the cinemas hope that these distance rules will be loosened. According to the HDF Kino and AG Kino associations, if the distance remains at 1.5 metres, a theatre can only be filled to a maximum of 20 or 25 percent capacity, meaning that the majority of seats remain empty.

 “If two seats are occupied, 12 must remain free,” said Berg. 

According to Christian Bräuer of AG Kino, even a metre distance – as is the case Austria – would be an improvement, because then every row could be occupied. 

“Then a chessboard system would be conceivable in which each row is occupied, but the seats are staggered and not occupied directly behind each other.”

An employee at Cineplex Alhambra demonstrating what the theatre and food counter will look like when they reopen. Photo: DPA


For many people, one of the traditions of going to the cinema is to eat: Some indulge in nachos, others munch on a huge bag of popcorn, while others toast with a beer or prosecco. 

People won’t have to give up noshing in the theatre: at the bars and counters of the cinemas, drinks and snacks will be available as usual. But due to the hygiene regulations it will be a little different than before, similar to the case in supermarkets and other shops. 

That means in most cases: queuing and ordering with distance and a mask. Employees will often stand behind a Plexiglas screen. Maybe in the future, nachos and co. will be handed out with a small cover.

Going to the toilet

Entschuldigung, darf ich mal kurz vorbei?” (Excuse me, can I squeeze past?) was a common term heard at German movies. 

Previously, if you wanted to go to the toilet, you had to push past the other moviegoers in your row, carefully avoiding stepping on toes in the dark. 

Now there will be far fewer people in the same row, if any. The toilets can still be used, yet it is expected that guests will have to wear a mask whenever they leave their seats.

Behind the scenes

Cinema operators are now also organising differently than before. Particularly in larger theatres, films will be more staggered than before so that not as many guests are waiting in the same area at once.

There will also be more frequent cleaning, especially for door handles and surfaces. The doors to the halls will also likely remain open for the time of admission, so that not everyone has to touch the handles. 

Have you been a newly reopened movie theatre in Germany yet? What was your experience?

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8 easy and fun ways to learn more about Germany

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new country is immersing yourself in the culture and history. Here are eight effortless ways to deepen your knowledge of Germany.

8 easy and fun ways to learn more about Germany

Whether you’ve been in the country 10 days or 10 years, there are bound to be some parts of Germany you don’t know as well as others, or gaps in your knowledge about its history and culture. 

From the rich maritime history of northern cities like Hamburg to the vibrant folk traditions in the south, Germany is a diverse and fascinating country, and finding out more about it can be hugely rewarding.

Of course, not everyone has time to pore over endless history books or study the complete works of Goethe – and the good news is, you don’t have to.

Getting to know Germany better can be as easy as strolling through a new city, binge-watching German TV or visiting a fun museum with family and friends.

To get you started, here are eight easy ways to learn more about Germany’s history and culture.

Visit a folk festival 

Regardless of the season, there are endless folk festivals to enjoy all around Germany, and they’re far more than just opportunities to drink beer and eat sausages (although you can definitely do that too). 

From finding out about Riesling wine in the Mosel Valley to Spargel (asparagus) in Beelitz, folk festivals are a great way to dip your toes into regional customs, cuisine and culture and soak up the feelings of local pride. 

Whether it’s a large-scale event like Munich’s Oktoberfest or the Weimar Zwiebelmarkt, or a more intimate gathering like Lübeck Hansafest, most folk festivals are a great way to get a feel for specific regions in Germany. What’s more, you’ll often see local artists on the line-up and local craftspeople selling their wares, most of whom will be happy to chat with you about what they do. 

READ ALSO: 10 unmissable events taking place in Germany in 2024

Take a crash-course in German history

If talk of the Holy Roman Empire or Hanseatic League leaves you scratching your head, you may want to find a fun way to brush up your knowledge of German history.

For those who are short on time, there are few better options for doing so than the Deutschlandmuseum in Berlin. This new addition to the capital’s museum scene is located just a stone’s throw from Potsdamer Platz and the Mall of Berlin and promises to take visitors on a whirlwind tour through 2,000 years of German history.

Deutschlandmuseum Berlin

Visitors learn about the Ancient period deep in the midst of the forest at the Deutschlandmuseum in Berlin. Photo: David Weyand CC BY-ND 4.0

Starting in the ancient world and ending in the present day, the Deutschlandmuseum covers 12 major epochs, including the Reformation, Englightenment, Hilter’s Third Reich and the post-war division of Germany.

Along the way, you can test your knowledge with pop quizzes, but the sights and sounds of each fascinating era are what truly makes the experience memorable. 

The whole thing can be done in a single hour, though the atmospheric scenery and interactive exhibits that transport you back in time may inspire you to linger a little longer. 

Make a German music playlist

For a little hit of German culture on the go, why not make a playlist full of Germany’s top artists and listen to it while travelling or doing chores at home?

If you’re stuck for inspiration, music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube have some ready made playlists you can nick ideas from, or even just listen to in their entirety to discover your new favourite German artists. 

This extensive playlist on Spotify, made by user Loki, covers hundreds of tracks and organises German music into different genres, so whether you’re into electro-pop, techno or hip hop, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for. 

READ ALSO: Why are people in German-speaking countries so obsessed with Schlager music?

Go on a walking tour 

It may sound like something only tourists do, but taking a walking tour either in your own city or elsewhere can open your eyes to new aspects of German culture and history you may not have known about before.

Prince Albert in Coburg, Bavaria

Tourists look at a statue of Prince Albert in Coburg, Bavaria, as part of a walking tour. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Pia Bayer

Though history tours are often the most popular, you can find endless options to suit your interests, from vineyard and local restaurant tours to vintage clothing stores, graffiti and street art.

Websites like GetYourGuide and Airbnb are good places to start looking for tours in your area, but if there’s something specific you’re interested in, you can always Google it and see what comes up. 

Join a weekly Stammtisch 

This one will depend a lot on where you live, but if you’re in a city, joining a regular Stammtisch can be a great way to meet new people, improve your German skills and generally get an insight into life in Germany.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a Stammtisch is an informal gathering, usually at a bar or restaurant, with a group of people who meet up on a regular basis. The name itself refers to the table people sit at, with ‘Stamm’ referring to the regular guests at the establishment. In other words, the Stammtisch is the regular table reserved for this group (traditionally at least!). 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Austria and Germany’s ‘Stammtisch’ tradition

There are many different types of Stammtisch, with some dealing with specific topics like politics or sport, and others simply acting as an opportunity to meet people. Whichever one you decide to go to, what easier way could there be to learn about German culture than gathering in a warm Kneipe and enjoying a cold beer? 

Binge-watch German cinema 

From cult classics like Metropolis and Good Bye Lenin to international breakthroughs like Toni Erdmann, Germany has produced some brilliant films over the years.

So whether your goal is to learn more about German history or simply enjoy some high-quality cinema, enjoying a movie night at home is a fun and effortless way to get to know Germany better. Most popular films have English subtitles or dubbing, so language should be no barrier. 

Good Bye Lenin props

Authentic GDR-era props are prepared on the set of the cult film Good Bye Lenin in Berlin Friedrichshain. Photo: picture alliance / Jens Kalaene/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Of course, there are also plenty of film festivals that run around the country, most famously the Berlinale, which runs for around two weeks in February. Though Berlin’s film fest is a celebration of international cinema, there are always a few German films in the programme, so keep an eye out for those if you want extra brownie points. 

If you’re looking for something to binge watch, there are plenty of entertaining German TV shows you can find on streaming services like Netflix or on broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

It doesn’t have to be high-brow, either: you can learn plenty about German society and life by finding your new fave reality TV show, and we’ve got the ultimate list here:

The five weirdest and best reality TV shows for improving your German

Sample local food and drinks

This one’s fairly obvious, but going to a nice local restaurant while travelling in Germany, or a local farmers’ market or food festival, can teach you a lot about Germany.

Whether it’s sipping an Apfelwein while eating potatoes in green sauce in Frankfurt or tucking into a Störtebecker beer and Labskaus in Hamburg, there’s huge variety in Germany’s regional cuisine – and often a fascinating tale behind every dish. 

A sign for Spargel in Schleswig-Holstein

A sign for German white asparagus (Spargal) on an old farmers’ cart in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Alternatively, finding out more about local dishes online and even trying your hand at preparing a few is a great hack for feeling well integrated.

READ ALSO: The foods you have to try while visiting Hamburg

Immerse yourself in German literature 

This is one for the bookworms (or Leseratten – reading rats – as the case may be): tucking into a German novel can teach you loads about the German way of life, the country’s complex history and the thoughts and ideas that have shaped Germany today. 

Admittedly, not all of the classics are light bedroom reading – The Tin Drum by Günther Grass is notoriously lengthy – but there are plenty of shorter novels that are a perfect jumping off point.

Thomas Mann’s novella, Death in Venice, is one of them, and The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is another, but you can always check out our top 10 recommendations for more inspiration:

10 German books you have to read before you die

Have you got any tips for an easy way to learn more about Germany’s culture, language and history? Get in touch and let us know.