• Linus Stampehl

Lichtspieltheater der Jugend

It looks sad. The windows are broken and shattered. The façade is sprayed. Greens are sprouting on the terrace of the first floor as well as on the steps leading to the entrance. The Lichtspieltheater der Jugend, on the opposite of Kaufland in the centre of Frankfurt, was left to decay for a long time. Its forecourt was still used, but mainly to go round the alcohol ban issued on the opposite side of the street, or to relieve oneself.

But recently, the attentive passer-by might have noticed changes. The area where the doors used to be and which had long housed a large graffito, suddenly stood out with its clean, brown metal doors and some were lucky could catch a glimpse inside one day or another. Should something be actually happening here, where the decline of an era could be observed so peacefully?

Built in 1910 as a UFA film theatre, after an temporary use as a brewery with festival halls, it was opened after the end of the Second World War as the Lichtspieltheater der Jugend - the name by which we still know the building today. However, the structural downturn in Eastern Germany did not leave this time-honoured house untouched. In 1998, it had to close and subsequently changed owners again and again. "It wasn't possible to reuse that building though being so typical of the cityscape." says Jörg Gleisenstein, the city's head of the building department, describing the situation. The population, however, put pressure on the building and finally the city council delivered a feasibility study. "After he took office in 2018, mayor René Wilke accelerated the development and started talks with the owner" Gleisenstein continues. The goal was to transfer the property into municipal ownership, and at the beginning of 2019, the time had finally come: the Lichtspieltheater der Jugend was now belonging to the city.

Copyright: Georg Schilffarth

But does this mean the end of the odyssey? At first glance, it might look that way. At least in the meantime, a poster in front of the building was announcing the future, or so it seemed. On the Open Monument Day, everyone could visit the interior. What is sobering about it is the lack of a finished concept for the former cinema. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is an intensive working process with the Ministry of Culture and the Brandenburg Cultural Foundation, according to the head of the building department. The goal: to use the Lichtspieltheater der Jugend as a site of the Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst.

What exactly the plan includes, is not known yet. But one thing is clear: in no ways could the city be harmed by building up another museum. Art and culture are always a sign for up-and-coming regions. Symbolically, the building, like Frankfurt itself, had left its best days behind. But the future seems to be coming for both, and it doesn't look so dark.

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