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Berlin: The 'Triumph of the Will' Theater Comes Back

Triumph of Will Theater - H 2014
An allied tank in 1961 rolled past the theater on its way to a pro-Western parade

The Zoo Palast, once as famous as the stars who strolled its red carpet, reopens for business hosting bold-faced names.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It's where Fritz Lang premiered Metropolis and where Leni Riefenstahl premiered Triumph of the Will. When it opened in 1915, it was called Filmpalast am Zoo -- because it was located next to the zoo -- then changed to the UFA Palast and finally Zoo Palast. By any name, though, it's been the center of German cinema for nearly a century.

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Allied bombings flattened the theater in 1943, but it was rebuilt in 1955 and became a symbol of a new, U.S.-friendly West Germany. In 1957, the Berlin Film Festival made the Zoo its headquarters, and it played host to an endless stream of Hollywood stars, from Jimmy Stewart to Cary Grant to Shirley MacLaine.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the festival moved east to its current location on Potsdamer Platz, and the Zoo Palast began a slow decline, shutting down in 2010. But a recent $6 million renovation by German exhibitor Hans-Joachim Flebbe has restored it in the style of its glory years, and this year the Zoo Palast will once again roll out a red carpet (for Jalil Lespert's biopic Yves St. Laurent, among other pictures).

"We're returning to our roots," says Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick. "The festival is returning to where it came from."