History of a young Wolf

Uli Kohl

Uli Kohl

A lot has happened from the 20th of December 2011, the date when Verena first stepped into the building that would eventually become Wolf, to what will be our official opening on the 25th February, that has taken what was once a disused and crumbling space and turned it into a cinema. Those years have been filled with an unimaginable energy and continued commitment from an innumerable amount of people whose combined efforts have finally pushed Wolf into existence.

The success of the crowdfunding campaign, which ran from the beginning of February until the end of April 2015, still feels surprising, even with two years of reflection. The enthusiasm that it attracted, both locally and internationally, was very welcome but certainly unexpected. I think for all of us it was the spark that allowed building to begin with absolute focus, giving us the feeling that our heartfelt but, up until that point, untested belief that cinema could be done differently, would have sense of home and of purpose. It showed us conclusively that people were excited and hungry for an alternative way of cinema going.

The building work began in August 2015 and required a complete overhaul of the interior. For anyone who visited us during the two month period of our crowdfunding campaign, I’m sure you noticed the building’s state of disrepair that, although we still have a fondness for, was not suitable to our needs in any way. Holes in the ceiling, uneven wooden floors, and walls better suited as windows may have had a certain charm but unfortunately don’t make for a fully operational cinema. The fact that we are also located in a residential area meant that noise was a huge factor and led to the necessity of sound proofing our screens and cafe area. 

Wolf found its home in the bottom floor of an apartment building on the crossroads of Wildenbruchstraße and Weserstraße, two intersecting streets in Neukölln. The ground floor of the building sat unoccupied for many years before work began on its renovation. The space has a long and interesting history prior to Wolf moving in. As far as we know there was a book binder, a laundrette, a bakery named Wolf Gramm (a happy coincidence that we found out long after Wolf was called Wolf), a tobacco store, and a brothel. It’s alway nice to hear more about the history of the building so if you are reading this and happen to know something please do share it with is

Reminders of the building’s previous occupants were everywhere before work began. From the blacked out windows, to the garishly painted pink walls and, as we discovered after beginning to build, an industrial oven used by the bakery, the first of many hurdles that required the help and effort of many people to remove. Once the oven was gone and the old floor boards came up we discovered, set within the concrete floors, the footprints of one of the previous inhabitants. One of the builders told us that he estimates they are about 100 years old.

Verena von Stackelberg: Dog steps in the old concrete

I’m sure you can imagine the tasks that followed. Electrical work, pulling down walls and then putting up new ones, amongst many other things, all completed by a team of invaluable professionals, and, on the other side, painting, cleaning, etc all completed by a host of enthusiastic volunteers and collaborators.

Verena von Stackelberg

We were contacted early on in our building process by the Adria Filmtheater, a cinema in the west of Berlin, who told us that they were replacing their cinema chairs. We assembled a small team, rented a truck, and raced to pick up 100 seats that we were delighted to find were striking red, beautifully plush, and in impeccable condition. The Adria’s generosity was a huge step in helping us to complete the cinema and it was an incredible feeling to finally sit in them after they were installed in our screening-rooms.

The only way to truly give an impression of the huge change the building has undergone over these last two years is through images. Below you can see some before and after photographs illustrating the enormous transformation that has happened with the help and support of our community of Wolves, to whom we will be continually grateful, and without which the dream of Wolf would not be happening.


Words by Kristofer Woods

Images by Uli Kohl, Verena von Stackelberg & Maia Santos