For the discerning cinephile, summer screenings under the heavens have a special romance
Austrians love taking things outside. With hot but seldom sweltering days and plenty of leafy parks and watersides to laze them away in, Viennese summers defy you to go elsewhere on vacation. So after open-air wining and dining and outdoor concerts and theater, it was only a matter of time before movies followed suit: open-air Kinos have become so ubiquitous to the summerscape over the past two decades they rival Grillfeiern, Kaiserspritzer and ice cream in our collective unconscious, with Volxkino alone counting over 190,000 visitors during the last season.
Of course, outdoor screenings are nothing new: drive-ins have been around since 1933, becoming a preferred place for teenage “necking” by the 1950s. But there’s a singular charm to a silver screen under a shimmering moon.
Still light out past 20:00, you find your way to a seat, grabbing a blanket for the late-night chill. As the orange sky turns blue-magenta, the picture becomes clearer; you can hear crickets in the pauses. You sneak away to grab a snack and a “cold one” at the kiosk and as you snuggle back in under the blanket, Cary Grant winks at you, knowingly. By the time the credits roll, the stars and moon have come out, but you barely notice.
We took a look at the Big Three open-air movie festivals in Vienna, which all boast films in their original language or with English subtitles – the selection is vast, so check the programs for the full story. Be there on time and take a blanket and bug spray, should jealous nature take revenge.
Celebrating its 27th anniversary, Volxkino brings thought-provoking movies to the masses with inflatable screens in 35 parks, squares, streets and markets all over town – a good opportunity to discover lesser-known spots and meet your neighbors. All films are shown for free, including recent festival entries from the world over like Taxi Teheran (2015), We Come as Friends (2014), Last Shelter (2015), and Youth (2015) as well as cult classics like Freaks (1932), Paper Moon (2000) or The Last Picture Show (1971). Seating is first come, first served – so arrive early.
The secret garden
The historic gates of the Filmarchiv Austria at Augartenspitz will open once again for Kino wie noch nie – warm summer evenings of cinematic excellence in their picturesque, overgrown garden, catered by organic food stands. Tailored to movie buffs, Kino wie noch nie benefits from the Filmarchiv’s movie collection – the nation’s largest – and a partnership with the renowned Viennale film festival, celebrating the history of the craft with 35 mm pictures. This season features a Rolling Stones special, featuring several movies with or about them such as Jean-Luc Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil (1968) or Martin Scorcese’s Shine a Light (2008). Otherwise, their comprehensive selection includes new releases like Maggie’s Plan (2016), previews and premieres courtesy of the Viennale – Wiener-Dog (2016), High-Rise (2014) – and forgotten classics such as Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) or Force of Evil (1948). Their Cinema Sessions are an additional treat – silent films like Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927) or Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1942) accompanied by live music. Best of all, if you missed a screening or it was cancelled by rain, you can still watch it the next day at the Metro Kino.
Under the stars
Popular since its inception for its central location and the Karlskirche’s majestic backdrop, Kino unter Sternen is another mainstay, celebrating its 20th season this year. Free of charge, the focus is squarely on Austrian filmmakers and movies, many of them offered with English subtitles alongside work by Austrian emigrés in Hollywood like Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann. Discussions are held before every movie to prepare the audience by giving some historical context or simply setting the mood for the upcoming feature.
Through Sept 16, various locations and start times.
Call the Hotline after 18:00 to see if films are rained out: 069912871500
Free admission, limited seating.
pdf of program for download (German)
Jun 30- Aug 28, Filmarchiv Austria (garden). Grounds open 18:00–00:30 daily. Films start at 21:30
Jul 1- 23, Karlsplatz/Resslpark (map)
More Outdoor Cinema
Besides the big open-air venues, there is a growing number of smaller or more specialized screenings; here are our favorites:
Kino am Dach(Through Aug 31)
The main public library hosts a rooftop cinema, screening cult films both recent and classic, many in English. Bad weather hotline: (0)699 11366947 from one hour before film start time.
Hauptbücherei: 7. Urban-Loritz-Platz 2a (map)
Young Caritas (Jul 7-9)
The Young Caritas charity and the film festival DIAGONALE, show movies with a social conscience, all with English subtitles –and for free!
Actionfabrik: 19., Heiligenstädterstr. 31, Gürtelbogen 353 (map)
Dotdotdot (Jul 7-Aug 26, Thursdays and Fridays at 21:30)
The successor to the defunct Espressofilm festival, Dotdotdot presents over 200 innovative short films from the world over. Evenings will also include discussions, workshops, and performances.
Volkskundemuseum: 8., Laudongasse 15-19 (map)
Frame:out (Jul 8-Aug 27)
Borrow a pair of headphones and enjoy underground movies, animation, shorts, music videos and documentaries on 16 nights at MuseumsQuartier. This year has a special highlight on Dutch photographer and director Anton Corbijn.