Berlinale Guide, part 1: How to get tickets

Jan Windszus © Berlinale 2013

We’ve been lucky this winter, really. The weather hasn’t been crazy cold for crazy long, and we’re even getting daily doses of sunshine. It’s been such an easy start to the year that it’s almost a surprise that the Berlinale is already almost upon us. Now we know that many of you are intimidated by the sheer size of the festival, let alone how to get tickets without standing in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden for unendurably bright hours on end. We’re here to help, providing a quick and dirty guide to how to get the most out of this year’s Berlinale.

The first rule: Don’t go see movies that will open in Berlin in just a few weeks; they’re only playing so they can have Clooney walk the red carpets and pose with some bears (bear statues, people, really…). As a matter of fact, skip any movie that you know will make it to theaters at any point in 2014. If you can bear not seeing any Tilda Swinton anything the second it’s projected on a screen somewhere, that is. It’s a waste of your precious festival time, and a wasted chance to see something you’d otherwise never get out of bed for, or never even be aware of.

The second rule is: Pick your surprise level. You can either read through the program brochure (available at the Arkaden or in other cinephile locations around town) or the Berlinale website and pick the films that intrigue you the most in advance, or you can just show up on your day of choice and see which films still have seats available.

That last option is not as hopeless as you might think. You might not get to see Grand Budapest Hotel before everybody else, but you’re guaranteed to see something. There’s always seats left over somewhere, simply try the box office at any participating theater on the day of and let the fates of film be your guide. Students pay half price, and starting half an hour before every screening starts, all left-over tickets are 50% off!

Just know that — and I’m simplifying here — Competition films are the ones in, erm, competition; Panorama films are by semi-established international filmmakers; Forum and Forum Expanded are younger, riskier, and artier; Generation ones are (not just!) for kids; Perspektive presents the best German films (with English subtitles, like all non-English films in the festival); and the other, smaller sections are fairly self-explanatory. All of them (aside from those blatant red-carpet ‘Specials’ that are there so that Gala and L’Oreal will still show up) are guaranteed to be special or great or crazy or stunning ortcetera.

If you do have a wish list, make a nice spreadsheet (or use the Berlinale’s handy programming tool) and figure out what goes on sale when. That’s rule three.

Though they only release a limited number through the website (the internet’s still scary, I guess?) and you’ll have to pay a 1,50€ surcharge per ticket, you will be able to get tickets at home online. (You’ll likely need an Eventim account, though, best set that up now.) You can either print them out or pick them up with your printed confirmation at the Arkaden.

If the online contingent is sold out, or you just don’t trust the speed of your internet, you can bring lunch and line up early at the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, at Kino International, or at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele out West. What’s more, and this is might be the best tip I’m giving you here today, for a 2€ surcharge you can get tickets for ANY screening that is for sale (see below) at ANY Berlin ticket office (Koka36 on Oranienstrasse, for instance). Just write down the specific number for that screening (find it in the printed program or on the website) so those poor devils won’t have to wade through all the Berlinale events to find the one you mean.

Now, as for when you should buy your tickets, that’s where shit gets crazy German (and I mean that in the nicest way, sort of):

Starting February 3rd, 10:00am, you will be able to get tickets for ALL screenings in the Friedrichstadt-Palast, HAU, or at the Philharmonie, and those in Culinary Cinema and Berlinale Goes Kiez (which just might take the Berlinale to the cinema around the corner from you in Neukölln, Kreuzberg, heck, in Weissensee, check the entire list here).

Starting that day, you’ll also be able to buy tickets for ALL screenings on Kinotag (February 16th), when the awards have been awarded, the filmmakers have mostly left, and us regular folk can take over the festival grounds (hence the friendly pricing: 6€ per screening, 4€ for films in the Generation kids program).

Though this already seems like being spoiled for choices, many more tickets actually won’t be on sale yet on February 3rd, as they only go on sale three days in advance (again, a smaller number of tickets online and the rest at the three main ticket offices). Just to fuck with people (I can only assume) tickets for repeat screenings of Competition films may be purchased four days in advance. Dizzy yet? I bet just showing up and catching whatever’s playing is sounding pretty sweet right now, but it really isn’t that complicated when you use Berlinale’s ‘Programme Planner’, which clearly shows when exactly the screenings you’ve selected will go on sale.

We’ll get back to you on Monday with our own advance recommendations. For now, do go through the program and let us know which films we shouldn’t miss. Festival spirit!