Cinemas are a staple of Viennese culture. The tradition of catching a movie dates back as far as 1902, when the so-called Lichtspieltheater (an archaic way of saying movie theatre) became popular. To give you some historical context – at this time, Vienna was still the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire!
To this day, there are a number of beautiful, old cinemas open throughout the city. Beautiful gold stuccoes, red velvet seats and creaky wooden floors create a unique atmosphere, no film enthusiast (and those who aspire to be one) could ever not fall in love with instantly.
Lucky for you, some of these traditional cinemas are among those that show English (and other foreign language) films. Before we introduce you to the most notable ones of them, here are a few other facts about going to the cinema in Vienna:
- For movie showtimes, infos on which films are currently playing or coming up in the next weeks, as well as reviews, it’s best to check webpages like film.at.
- To make sense of the listings and figure out which films/showings are best suited for you, you will need to know the following abbreviations: OV (= original version), OmU (= original version with German subtitles), OmeU (= original version with English subtitles; typically applicable to films in other languages than German or English), and, finally, sometimes given and probably the one you do not want to go for, DF (= german version).
- You can buy tickets online or directly at the cinema (either via advanced booking by phone or at the ticket booth), and pre-booked but not-yet paid tickets are typically held at the counter until 30 minutes before the film’s starting time.
- Austrians tend to be traditional with their cinema snacks – we love our slated popcorn with a soft drink. Very few cinemas offer caramel popcorn, while most (larger) cinemas do have nachos these days. In terms of sweets, there, too seems to be a divide between more traditional venues (Mannerschnitten, Sportgummi, maybe M&Ms), and more modern ones (all the sweets, sometimes even full-blown candy bars and ice-cream vendors).
Vienna’ English Cinemas
The Artis is one of Vienna’s favourite cinemas when it comes to watching films in their original version. The cinema is part of the Cineplexx group, which means it shows mainly blockbusters and family-pleasers, but with a charming twist. The cosy, intimate rather small screening rooms give the audience a viewing experience that transcends your typical big-names, big-screen, big-theatre atmosphere.
Where? Schultergasse 5; 1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 535 65 70
Web: Artis International
The Burg is special for two reasons:
a) it has first opened in 1912, which makes it one of the oldest cinemas still up and running worldwide! Over the past decade, the cinema has taken a leading role in showing foreign language films in their original, showing maybe less popular, but more important films, and representing all major cinematic movements (and a lot of the minor ones as well) in its program.
b) since its rerun in 1980, the Burg has regular screenings of the Orson Wells classic “The Third Man”, which has been filmed and is set in large parts in Vienna. Tourists and movie buffs from all over the world love the cinema for this.
As you can imagine, the cinema itself is a truly historic gem. It’s not just the red velvet seats and the vintage atmosphere that makes it so special, but rather the little touches, most noticeable of all the beautiful retro-sign over the entrance.
Where? Opernring 19, 1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 587 84 06
Web: Burg Kino
The legendary Filmcasino is for the movie-buffs in town. The charming 60s style cinema is the place to be if you are into indie, art-house, or short-films. Oh, and if you are into gory goodness as well, the Filmcasino is the host of the “/Slash” Filmfestival. And for the serial lovers among us, the Filmcasino is venue for fun screening nights like their legendary “Game of Thrones”, “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” specials.
Where? Margaretenstraße 78, 1050 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 587 90 62
Filmhauskino am Spittelberg
The latest addition to Vienna’s cinema scene, this Arthouse cinema is a true gift for the city’s movie lovers. It is a subdivision of the Filmcasino and carries on its tradition. Screenings include everything from the latest Austrian and European films, independent movies from all over the globe, priced documentaries, and theme nights, as well as a special family-oriented program on the weekends.
Where? Spittelberggasse 3, 1070 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 890 72 86
The Gartenbaukino is a truly unique cinema. With just one screen, a whopping seating capacity of 736, and a lot of attitude, everything in this cinema lets you know that it has been built with the intention of hosting big-scale parties and stunning premieres.
The Gartenbaukino may not be a full foreign-language movie theatre, but it tends to show truly stunning, magical, tragic, and important films from all around the world – some of those are in German (often with subtitles), others are in English, and others again are in whatever language they have first been shot. Our best tip? Just check the program out and let yourself be surprised!
Where? Parkring 12, 1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 512 23 54
English Cinema Haydn
The name says it all, really. The Haydn is the cinema for English speaking folks in Vienna. The cinema is a great place to catch the big Hollywood movies, but it’s also the place to turn to when you are in the mood for a special screening of a classic (for example, there’s a screening of “Love Actually” each December), or one of the big stage-to-cinema productions (think Benedikt Cumberbatch in “Hamlet”). And on top of that, your voice counts! The family-run cinema asks for your help creating its program – you can vote for films to be shown up to two weeks before a movie starts and those getting the most votes will definitely make the cut.
Where? Mariahilferstraße 57, 1060 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 587 22 62
Web: English Cinema Haydn
The Schikaneder cinema is the place to go if you’re done with mainstream Hollywood and want to go in the complete opposite direction. If you’re looking for flair, individuality, opinion, and charm, then this is the place for you. The Schikaneder’s interior is as quirky and indie as its program – there may be your average cinema seats, yes, but there’s also sofas, and nobody, really nobody, will look at you strangely if you decide on watching the film lying down. Everything goes, here, and everyone’s welcome, so it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that you can rent the cinema to show your own films, that there’s a bar and restaurant attached, and that lively discussions are not only okay but encouraged.
Where? Margaretenstraße 24, 1040 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 58 52 867
In true indie fashion, this is more than just a cinema. The Top Kino and bar are a great place to spend the evening, and, indeed, most of the night. The charming cinema itself is best known for its wide selection of original European movies and documentaries and offers a great place of respite from your prototypical US-mainstream cinema. Another highlight is the Frühstückskino, the Breakfast Cinema: every Sunday morning there’s a leisurely breakfast followed by a movie. And once you’re proficient in German (and get drawn into this very strange, but fun tradition), the Top Kino (as well as the Schikaneder) show the series “Tatort” for free (almost) every Sunday evening.
Where? Rahlgasse 1, 1060 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 208 3000
Web: Top Kino
Located right next to the University of Vienna, it shouldn’t surprise you that the audience at the Votivkino is (often) young, hip, knowledgable and opinionated. They are looking for something special, and they are served it here. And served it well. The traditional, incredibly charming cinema has a focus on European indie productions, but isn’t averse to showing both classics and contemporary films that are worth it. The Votivkino also is a true treasure trove for specials – there are baby- and kids-welcome screenings, a Disney focussed series of events, political cinema, queer cinema, movie breakfasts and much, much more.
Where: Währingerstraße 12, 1090 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 317 35 71
There are, of course other cinemas that show original version films. Most bigger cinema-chains tend to have at least some screenings of the latest releases in English. So, if you want to enjoy a new release in 3D, you might have better luck checking the big chains rather than the specialised foreign language cinemas.
Another thing you might want to check out at Vienna’s many film festivals. There’s the /Slash Film Festival, the VIS (Vienna Shorts), and the Viennale, to name but a few. Keep your eyes open, you might be surprised at what you find!