2020 has been quite the year, which is saying something considering that it is only June. Yes, June, as in we have 6 more months left. Half a year! Are you starting to feel claustrophobic in your thoroughly disinfected rooms? Have you found yourself wondering what happened in the other timelines? Do you feel like escaping this reality? Well, look no further, for there is now a (temporary) solution: Movie theatres.
Movie theatres are one of the few spaces where one can switch off and briefly escape the hyperactive and overwhelming 21st century world of constant texts, notifications and news alerts. Now that they are back in business, it may be time to start preparing to board on a trip to a less dystopian world. This article highlights the intriguing story behind some of Amsterdam’s most interesting theatres, which are now open and able to grant you an escape plan.
In the early 1900s, Abraham Icek Tuschinski, a tailor of Polish-Jewish descent, arrived in Rotterdam. Here, realizing the potential of the film industry, Tuschinski opened 4 cinemas, the first being 1911’s Thalia. In 1917, Tuschinski moved with his brothers-in-law to Amsterdam. Here he set out to make one of the most luxurious movie theatres, which can still be visited today!
In the summer of 1919, with a total sum of 4 million guilder, Tuschinski worked with 3 different architects (Hijman Lois de Jong, Pieter den Besten and Jaap Gidding) to fulfil his vision. Inaugurated in 1921, the result was a Cathedral-like building which embraced Art Deco designs, with a touch of Art Nouveau and Amsterdamse School style.
Designed in the style of an opera theatre, the main auditorium seats 1200 people. The entire building was equipped with revolutionary heating and ventilation systems, as well as a film orchestra to accompany silent films.
During WWII, Tuschinki’s grand theatre fell victim to the German invasion, and was seized and occupied, being renamed the ‘Tivoli’. In 1942, Tuschinski and the majority of his family was deported to Auschwitz, and murdered.
Subsequently, the theatre’s name has been restored and the building has been refurbished and slightly modernized. Currently the cinema belongs to the Pathé chain. Offering 6 screening rooms, including the main auditorium which seats 740 people, in normal seats, love seats and even private boxes.
In Amsterdam-West, an old tram service station was remodelled to house one of Amsterdam’s most intriguing theatres.
With 9 screens, 800 seats, and an Art Deco interior worthy of being part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, De Filmhallen offers a wide range of film genres, and is the largest independent cinema in the Netherlands.
The highlight of this theatre is room 7, the Parisienzaal. In 1910, one of the first Dutch film distributors, Jean Desmet, opened “Cinema Parisien” in Amsterdam. This was one of the first cinemas in the Netherlands. In 1987, the cinema closed and was dismantled but a piece of it survived, as Desmet’s grand-daughter was able to preserve the iconic Art Deco interior, donating it to the Film Museum, EYE.
The interior has since been given a new life at De Filmhallen. One can now enjoy old classics and special releases in the Pariesienzaal.
From 2016, an antique pathological anatomy laboratory was transformed into the self-acclaimed cult cinema that is Lab 111. With a vision to appeal to the imagination, provide inspiration and stimulate reflection, this ‘artsy’ theatre focuses on cinematic experiences of documentaries, modern classics and ‘unconventional’ film genres.
To further contribute to your cultural needs, Lab 111 also hosts debates, exhibitions, and is the home to Bar Strangelove, named after Stanley Kubrick’s beloved classic.
Disclaimer: ‘Travelling’ with Covid-19 Rules
As with any form of travelling, safety rules must be followed. No, you do not need to switch your phone into airplane mode, or fasten your seat belts. However, make sure to check and follow Covid-19 safety measures before getting your ticket out of 2020.
Cover: Adrien Olichon