Germans are big moviegoers - German films, American films, other foreign language films, they're all compelling - but they do tend to reserve movie dates for bad weather. In fact, a rainy weekend evening means that it is almost impossible to get a seat at the movie theater if you make the mistake of just showing up without a reservation. It's Germany: always make a reservation! That includes both movie theaters and restaurants.
Most movie theaters in Germany have reserved seating, and a few others take reservations, but then have open seating. In those cases, not only is it advisable to make a reservation, but you better plan to get there early to stake out your seats (sometimes I forget to take my own advice on this, and then inevitably end up sitting in the front row, or separate from my friends, squeezed into a lone back corner seat). The actual theater can also be quite small; Munich doesn't have many of the megaplexes that you find everywhere in the US. In fact, the city's theaters tend more towards the artsy and independent. This also means that it's hit or miss in terms of the quality of the screening, but sometimes I actually like those independent theaters better than the ones with the enormous screens and their amazing sound systems. A unique atmosphere can compensate a lot for a lack of amenities.
In Munich, the best resource to find out about theaters and movie times is: www.muenchen.de.
And here is a shortlist of my favorite movie theaters in Munich (with particular emphasis on places that have original version screenings, because I tend to avoid movies that are dubbed in German - though I will happily watch an original German movie, of course, in German):
- Cinema - "the" English movie theater in Munich. They also do surprise midnight sneak previews, which can be a lot of fun.
- Museum Lichtspiel - my "back-up" English movie theater in Munich- it usually has a wider selection of movies than Cinema, but it's smaller and sometimes the screening times are incredibly random or inconvenient. Last time I was there they were undergoing major renovations, so the foyer area of the theater was completely ripped up.
- City Kinos / Atelier - one of my favorite theaters in town. It often has original version movies, and has a great little courtyard to hang out in for a drink before the movie.
- Theatiner - this is one of the artsier places in town. It always has original version movies, but rarely American, which means that it could be French or Spanish, for example, with German subtitles.
- Mathäser - the big, modern theater with all the trappings. All the Hollywood blockbusters are screened here, usually dubbed in German. Every now and then there might be an original version showing if a movie is really popular.
- Kino am Olympiasee - great "open air" cinema set-up on the lawn at Olympia Park. They have seats, or you can bring a picnic blanket and sit on the grass. Occasionally movies are shown with subtitles.
- Kino Mond und Sterne - another outdoor theater, this one in Westpark. Most movies are in German, but again there are occasional showings with subtitles.
One other note about movie theaters in Germany - no surprise here, but beer and wine are always available at cinemas, in addition to the typical concessions that you would expect. Germans also have two types of popcorn - salty or sweet. Or, if you're like me, you can just grab some food from somewhere outside and bring it in. I actually have no idea if this is permitted, but my general philosophy on these things is just to assume it's all okay and never ask.