The Studio Babelsberg, located in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. Founded in 1912, it covers an area of about 270,000 square feet (25,000 m2). Hundreds of films, including Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel were filmed there. In 2012 Studio Babelsberg will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Today, Studio Babelsberg remains operational mainly for feature film productions. Furthermore, it acts as co-producer on international high budget productions.
In 1911, the company Bioscop built its first – glass – film studio in Babelsberg. The first filming began as early as February 1912 for The Dance of the Dead by Danish director Urban Gad. After the World War I, the Deutsche Bioscop Gesellschaft merged with the German branch of the French film concern Eclair Decla in Babelsberg into „Decla Bioscop“. In 1921, Decla Bioscop passed into Universum Film AG (UFA) which had been founded in 1917. This company built the large studio (which is now known as the “Marlene Dietrich Halle”) in 1926 for the major film production of Metropolis by Fritz Lang. The first German sound stage in Babelsberg, the Tonkreuz, was built during 1929. Melodie des Herzens/Melody of the Heart with Willy Fritsch was the first German full-sound film. This was followed in 1930 by the premiere of The Blue Angel by Josef von Sternberg with Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings in the main roles. From 1933 to 1945, around 1,000 feature films were made in the studios and on the studio lot. Under the direction of Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, the studio churned out hundreds of films including Leni Riefenstahl’s openly propagandisticTriumph of the Will. The virally anti-Semitic propaganda film Jud Süss (The Jew Süss), shot in 1940, was also made at Babelsberg.
On May 17, 1946, the DEFA – Deutsche Film AG – was established. It produced over 800 feature films, including 150 children’s films. In addition, over 600 films were produced for television from 1959 to 1990. The DEFA period was honored by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York in 2005. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Treuhand took over the responsibility for the privatisation of the former DEFA. In August 1992, the Treuhandanstalt sold the former DEFA film studios in Babelsberg to the French group Compagnie Générale des Eaux (later absorbed into Vivendi Universal). Over the following 12 years the company invested around €500 million updating the studio’s infrastructure. In July 2004, Vivendi sold Studio Babelsberg to the investment company FBB (Filmbetriebe Berlin Brandenburg GmbH), which has Carl Woebcken and Christoph Fisser as shareholders. In Spring of 2005, the restructured studio presented an initial public offering and began trading on the free market. 2007 was the most profitable year since the Studio’s privatization in 1992 – 12 feature films were shot at Studio Babelsberg, among them Valkyrie with Tom Cruise, The International with Clive Owen, and The Reader with Kate Winslet. In 2008 Studio Babelsberg and Hollywood producer Joel Silver formed a strategic alliance to produce feature films from the Dark Castle production slate at the world’s oldest film studio. Recent co-productions of Studio Babelsberg include Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (released 2009) and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (2010).
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