Arts & Museums Part III - Cinema and Film Festivals (2)

This article is the final one in a three part series devoted to the arts in and around the Zürich area. In order to see the complete article including links as well as the previous two in the series, please log on to the website and go to Newcomer Tips on the left side navigation menu.

This time we focus on going to the movies. Zürich has many cinemas, both large multiplexes with mainstream films, and a variety of smaller cinemas showing ‘independent’ films from all over the world. There is quite a range of movies of all kinds to see: early black and white films, family films, films from a wide range of countries, and the relatively latest blockbusters! I say relatively latest since Switzerland tends to get Hollywood films a little later than their first showings in the US or the UK. Switzerland also has a number of film festivals throughout the year, the biggest and most popular being the annual International Film Festival in Locarno in August (details below).

Let’s begin with local cinema and how to find out what is on. The best place to start is probably this online resource, which has a complete listing for both mainstream and art cinemas and is available in English, German and French. 

If you are not fluent in other languages then you will probably want to know what you can see in English. In order to check what languages a film is shown in and if there are English subtitles (if not shown in English), it is helpful to know how to read the symbols of the film postings online and elsewhere. On the website you can also hover your cursor over the language listings for the films and it will tell you what language the film is in and what language the subtitles are in. As a rule of thumb, if the original language is not English, (which will be shown with a capital E immediately after the film showing time), and it is not a German original film language, (shown as GV in English and D in German) then the subtitles will be in German. (OV indicates ‘other languages’, F for French and S for Spanish.)

There are some smaller specialist cinemas that show independent films, older films and have special themed film seasons, for example a particular director or actor. Two such cinemas are the Xenix near Helvetiaplatz and the Filmpodium. Check out their websites for the latest information. A number of cinemas, including Xenix, Riff Raff and the relatively new Houdini, among others, have a bar or café, making it a great place to meet friends for a drink and snacks before or after the movie.

Film Festivals

Switzerland has a lot of film festivals throughout the year. There are mini-festivals in local cinemas, such as the annual Human Rights Watch film festival here in Zürich in December, and one of the largest and most famous, the Pardo International Film Festival held in Locarno every year for the past 70 years! The entire Swiss Italian town of Locarno is taken over by the festival for 10 days. If you plan to go, book your accommodation well in advance, as thousands descend on the town. Choose from a huge range of films: old, new, feature length and shorts, dramas and documentaries, established and new directors. You’ll also have opportunities to mingle with the directors and stars at the many parties and events during Switzerland’s premiere film fest. See the website for more information. 

Rather closer to home is the Winterthur Short Film Festival (Internationale Kurzfilmtage Wintherthur) showing a wide range of films each year over six days and evenings. There is an overarching theme selected for the festival each year as well as a focus on a particular country or region. 2017 will be the 20th year of the festival with the theme of ‘Cinema is not Dead’ from 7 to 12 November. See the website for more information. 

Even closer is the relatively recent annual film festival here in Zürich, now in its 13th year. The dates for 2017 are 28 September to 8 October. Apart from going to many of the local cinemas around the city to see the wide range of international films on offer, members of the public hang around Sechseläutenplatz at Bellevue for glimpses of the stars and famous directors walking the red carpet! For the past few years, various ZIWA groups have organised a special apéro, film viewing and welcome from the Festival organisers. Keep your eyes and ears open to find out the details for this year! 

Outdoor Cinema

Other fun movie-related activities in the summer are the outdoor cinema showings! 

There are a few here in Zürich as well as throughout Switzerland, some in quite spectacular settings. The small Kino Xenix at Helvetiaplatz has outdoor screenings. Probably the most well-known in Zürich is the one at the Zürihorn (near Tiefenbrunnen) with a screen right on the edge of the lake! Tickets sell out fast and you need to take your chances with the weather. On a warm summer night, open-air cinema has a very magical atmosphere. The Locarno Film Festival also has outdoor movies in the main Locarno Square every night of the festival.

ZIWA Movie groups

Finally, we can’t complete this report on films without mentioning ZIWA’s own movie going groups. We have the general Moviegoers, Moviegoers in the evening, a Movie lunchtime group, Movies in French and Movies in Spanish. For more information about the Chairladies and when these groups meet, check out the Chairlady listings in the ZIWA News or log in to the ZIWA website at and click on the Out and About section of the Interest Groups. There you will find links to each of the Movie going groups.

If you would like to become a member of ZIWA, please click here for more information. Happy viewing!