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Germany's historical Studio Babelsberg under threat

August 18, 2023

The legendary film studio hosted stars including Marlene Dietrich and served as a set for films like Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Wes Anderson's "Hotel Budapest."

A film still from "The Blue Angel"
Marlene Dietrich in "The Blue Angel"Image: dpa/picture alliance

Located just outside Berlin, Studio Babelsberg has been under a cloud after the US company Cinespace — a subsidiary of the real estate company TPG Real Estate Partners (TREP) — became the majority shareholder at the beginning of 2022, since when hardly any filming has taken place at the studios.

German film director and Oscar winner Volker Schlöndorff added to those fears as he spoke of the "danger" posed to the studio's existence. He said that since the company Kino Bidco, a subsidiary of Cinespace, became the main stakeholder, there were hardly any films being produced in the historic studios. Schlöndorff, who has also served as the CEO of Studio Babelsberg in the past, warned that the studio could be wiped out of existence.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Babelsberg Studios
Scholz visited the Babelsberg Studios on TuesdayImage: Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance/dpa

Earlier this week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke out in support of preserving Studio Babelsberg amid fears over the future of the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. He said he wanted to keep the multi-billion dollar business of film and TV productions in Germany.

"We will make far-reaching decisions in the course of next year at the latest," Scholz said Tuesday during a visit to the film studios. The industry "must be maintained here and elsewhere in Germany because once it's gone, it's hard to rebuild," he added.

Babelsberg's co-chief executive officer, Andy Weltman, called for competitive tax incentives so Germany could "once again play a leading role leading role" in film production.

German film industry stagnating

According to a 2021 industry forecast published by Statista, the film industry's revenue in Germany by 2025 will be around €10.5 billion ($11.4 billion) and largely stagnating.

Founded in 1912, the Babelsberg film studios are regarded as the cradle of German film and the oldest large-scale studio in the world. Today the studios have, among other things, 21 state-of-the-art studios, outdoor sets covering more than 173,000 square meters and Europe's largest prop warehouse.

Among the films shot in Babelsberg were 1927's "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang and "The Blue Angel" with Marlene Dietrich in 1930.

In recent years, Babelsberg was used for Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and "Grand Budapest Hotel" by Wes Anderson as well as the series "Babylon Berlin."

jsi/mg (Reuters, dpa, epd)

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date Cinespace took control of Studio Babelsberg and the name of the director of "Metropolis."