THREE SSVC Forces cinemas that brought a ‘bit of home’ to Germany have had to close this year due to the rebasing of troops and their families.
The Globe in Herford held its last screening in July, The Jerboa in Fallingbostel closed its doors in August, and The Ratz in Hohne has now shown its final film.
“These cinemas have been essential for personnel and their families,” said Rebecca Kinsey, who has been SSVC Cinema Manager in Hohne for three years and in Paderborn for four.
“They brought a bit of home to overseas postings. In a country where language can be a barrier they have brought families together and provided much-needed entertainment for single soldiers too.”
Though The Ratz Cinema has only just closed, it screened Minions as a finale during the weekend of 26-28 June before the majority of families left the garrison. It was free of charge and cinemagoers were invited to wear fancy dress to mark the occasion, which they did with huge enthusiasm.
The Ratz Cinema opened in 2005 and since then has welcomed 75,791 people through its doors. SSVC Archivist Alan Grace said that earlier cinemas in the camp preceded this facility.
“The first cinema in Hohne had been built for the Wehrmacht in the late thirties and was later taken over by the British Army. According to a report in Kinematograph Weekly in 1958, it was situated only a few yards from the perimeter of the infamous Belsen Concentration Camp.”
Alan also explained the origins of cinemas that were provided for the military based in Germany. “Up until 1946, cinemas were controlled by ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association), and as more camps were set up in Germany, the AKC (Army Kinema Corporation) and the RAFCC (RAF Cinema Corporation) began operating a range of cinemas.
“They adapted previous German-built cinemas, gymnasiums, old Nissan huts and special buildings erected by the corporation. The cinemas in Herford, Fallingbostel and Hohne opened around 1947.”
And many film stars also travelled over to Germany. “A number of the cinemas in BAOR and Berlin were visited by actors and actresses,” added Alan. “Norman Wisdom, George Cole, Joan Sims and Mara Lane were among those who came to promote their films and, at the same time, meet the Servicemen and their families.”
The closure of these facilities in Germany marks the end of an era, but SSVC Forces Cinemas have been very proud to be a small part of the military communities.
General manager for SSVC Forces Cinemas, Joanne Holt, said: “We would like to thank all the volunteers from the BFG community who have given up their evenings and weekends to help run our cinemas. The success of this welfare provision is down to the commitment of these individuals as well as the enduring partnerships with the units, OCs and film distributors.
“These cinemas have enjoyed many milestones over the years – most recently the transition from 35mm projection to digital, giving the audience the 3D experience – and events cinema such as Billy Elliott, War Horse and Take That in Concert. We’ve particularly enjoyed the ‘sing-alongs’ and the charity screenings in aid of the BFBS Big Salute charities.
“We send our best wishes to personnel and families returning to the UK and hope to see you in one of our UK Forces Cinemas.”
Two SSVC Forces Cinemas now remain in Germany, The Kaleidoscope Cinema in Paderborn and The Royal Theatre in Gutersloh and these will stay open for the military communities while they are based in those garrison areas.