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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‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

Germans have an international reputation for enjoying functional clothing. A top German fashion expert told The Local whether the stereotypes of German fashion are really true - and what Angela Merkel has to do with modern style.

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

‘Comfortable and practical’

“It’s pretty easy to define German style,” says Bernhard Roetzel, the author of books on men’s fashion such as ‘Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion’. “Nowadays the basic dress of a grown-up man is mainly blue jeans, some kind of sweatshirt and an anorak. The shoes are usually comfortable sneakers. This is the basic German fashion that everyone from workers to doctors wears, and it is suitable for 90 percent of occasions.”

The basic theme, he says, is comfort and practicality. “That is very important.”

According to Roetzel, this love for the practical stretches all the way back into the 19th century when most other Europeans still had strict public dress codes.

“It began with a movement called Lebensreform, which valued things like vegetarianism and woollen clothes, which were supposed to be healthy,” he says.

“Even if Germans at the time didn’t like political freedom, they loved the freedom to wear sandals. Freedom for Germans is to wear sandals in places where it is not appropriate!”

A woman lies on the shore of the Schwarzachtalsee in Baden-Württemberg still wearing her sandals. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Thomas Warnack

Dressing down became even more acceptable after the First World War, when Germany became a republic and the aristocracy, with its formal sense of dress, lost its importance. “The Nazis also propagated being active outdoors,” Roetzel notes. “Fashion was seen as something awful created by the French and the Jews to bring about the downfall of German culture.”

When the craze for casual wear crossed the pond from the US in the 1960s, Germans were slow to adopt it. But now jeans are even standard clothing for septuagenarians, he says. “Twenty years after jeans arrived people started to realise that they are great for all occasions – and now everyone wears them. This was the last blow to formal German clothing.”

Dress down for work

The German love for all-purpose clothes means that it is perfectly appropriate to wear jeans to work, according to Roetzel. 

“If you don’t work in a bank or law firm you can probably wear jeans in most offices. A non-iron, short sleeve shirt is also very important. German men love these shirts, despite the fact that you get hot in them.”

You can even wear sneakers in the office. Or, if you have to look a bit smarter “some very cheap, comfortable leather shoes” will make you fit right in.

“In business, it is very important that you don’t stand out,” Roetzel advises. “If you are smartly dressed people will ask if you have an important meeting or will think you are looking for a pay rise. For everyday business, you dress as casually as possible.”

A woman cycles to work in jeans and a simple jacket in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christin Klose

Nothing too sexy

Meanwhile, women’s workplace style, perhaps even more than men’s, is based on the principle of ‘the more forgettable the better.’

“Women in German business must not look too sexy,” says the fashion writer. “If you wear a skirt, for example, it should not be too short and heels should not be too high.” A “boxy, mouse grey suit” including a jacket that doesn’t complement one’s figure completes the look.

“Whereas in Italy, businesswomen carry Chanel bags, in Germany they usually carry a laptop bag or something very practical. Makeup is also rather reduced, not too much lipstick, nothing that is too obvious,” he says.

No door policy

Ties are basically a redundant piece of apparel in modern Germany, meaning wearing one really is a matter of choice in most settings.

“There are very few places where you are not allowed in if you don’t wear a tie,” says Roetzel. “I don’t know a single restaurant that wouldn’t admit you if you don’t wear a tie. You might not be allowed into Cologne Cathedral if your shorts are too short, but basically, you can wear everything everywhere and Germans love this!”

Funerals and weddings

Even the most formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and important birthdays are much more informal events than they once were.

“At funerals, people will wear black but they rarely wear a black suit, most people will wear a black sweatshirt and jeans,” says Roetzel.

Copy Merkel

Angela Merkel’s unpretentious style appealed to Germans. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fabian Sommer

Anyone looking for inspiration need look no further than recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously wore variations on the same trouser suit for most of her career.

“She had different colours and fabrics but that was her uniform and she also found her hairstyle and that was it. I don’t think she had a stylist,” Roetzel says. “That’s what Germans love. It’s recognizable and it doesn’t look expensive.”


“In Germany, one thing you should never admit to is wearing expensive, tailor-made clothes,” he explains. “As a politician, you can admit that you like drinking but you should never admit to having an expensive wardrobe.”

In fact, the cheaper the better. “Olaf Scholz has always earned a lot of money but his clothes are awful, his suits are awful – this is just perfect for Germany,” says Roetzel.

Splash the cash subtly (or on outdoor clothes)

This is not to say that all Germans wear cheap clothes, but they don’t make a big fuss about the brands that they do wear.

“People want to express status by wearing certain brands,” Roetzel points out. “But in Germany, this is done in a very subtle way. You will see small details in the clothes and glasses of a professor or doctor that will tell you a lot. Class exists but people hide their status because it is negative to show it off. This can be hard for foreigners to detect.”

There is one major exemption thought to the rule of not flaunting your wealth – outdoor apparel.

“Outdoor clothes are really a big thing here,” Roetzel says. “It gives people a sense of freedom and healthiness. Spending €800 on an outdoor jacket is perfectly okay. But it is a sin to spend the same amount on a tailor-made suit – you will destroy your image if you admit to doing this.”

Moreover, anyone who wants to impress Germans through their possessions would be better advised to buy a good car or modern kitchen, the fashion expert says. “It is perfectly normal to have a very expensive kitchen, but your clothes should still be cheap.”

Focus on inner beauty

The German (dis)interest in fashion can actually tell us a lot about deeper German values.

“There is an old Prussian saying of mehr sein als schein (content is better than appearance). Germans feel that if something is too beautiful there must be something fishy about it. Anyone who is too smartly dressed could be a conman,” says Roetzel.

“Germans are very honest, they like to be very direct. They say “what’s the point in not wearing sandals if it’s hot?’”