Power and Omnipresence: Ufa’s Vertical Structure


Power and Omnipresence: Ufa’s Vertical Structure

Ufa gained a dominant position in the industry by generating income not only as a production company but also as a film distributor and cinema operator. Its distribution catalogue contained films from external production companies, and it brought numerous smaller companies under its sway by purchasing stakes in them. It is easy to overlook the fact that the Ufa label not only included classics by Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, but also mechanically churned-out comedies, mediocre imported films, and movies licensed from small German producers."Fridericus Rex" (1922), a reactionary period piece that glorified Frederick the Great and was distinctly anti-republican, illustrates the all-encompassing activities of the vertically structured group. Director Arzen von Cserépy produced the film himself, with Ufa acting as distributor. When it became apparent that the film would be a success, Ufa signed a production contract with Cserépy-Film Co. GmbH, immediately releasing a sequel, followed by parts three and four. Numerous other Fridericus films, all of them starring Otto Gebühr, rode the wave of success. Though not a Ufa production, "Fridericus Rex" continues to be associated with the name Ufa in the public consciousness.

Source: DIF
F. W. Murnau directs Emil Jannings on the set of "Faust" (1926). Behind the camera: Erich Grohmann

During its founding phase, Ufa gained a foothold in the movie theater business by acquiring U.T. (Union Theater), which gave it a network of 40 cinemas throughout Germany. Five years later, this number had doubled, and expansion continued apace. In Berlin, Ufa soon acquired the theaters on Kurfürstendamm and near the Memorial Church where movie premieres took place. These included the Ufa-Palast am Zoo, the Capitol, the Gloria-Palast and the elegant Marmorhaus. In Hamburg, Ufa owned the Lessing-Theater on Gänsemarkt, and in 1929 it erected, just a block away, the largest movie theater in Europe - the Ufa-Palast, which seated 2,667. With the Capitol in Aachen, the Odin-Palast in Barmen, the Ufa-Palast in Wiesbaden and the Luitpold-Lichtspiele in Würzburg, Ufa was omnipresent. While the word monopoly is not entirely accurate - Ufa only owned ten percent of all movie houses - the largest and most attractive cinemas in German towns always bore Ufa's famous diamond trademark. Ufa set up shop wherever German films were shown. It built ships' cinemas aboard Hapag ocean liners. Foreign contacts that had been broken off were now re-activated, breathing new life into Ufa subsidiaries in France, Holland, Italy, New York, Poland, Sweden, Austria and Hungary. Ufa trading companies supplied movie houses with projection equipment and accessories, and they offered schools special projectors for small-gauge films. An advertising and industrial film department was integrated into the group, along with a processing lab - the Berlin-based Afifa (Aktiengesellschaft für Filmfabrikation). Ufa also made sure that ancillary rights were fully exploited through its book publishers, magazines and two music publishers - Ufaton and Wiener Boheme.