Art Nouveau Palace Cinema to open in Brussels


Next week sees the splashy grand opening of the Palace, a renovated historical building now home to four cinemas and a restaurant

‘A reflection of the city’

Despite a common belief that streaming and view-on-demand is going to put traditional cinemas out of business, Brussels is undergoing a renaissance of sorts in its cinema scene. First the tiny Styx in Elsene re-opened its doors last autumn after having closed its doors in 2015. Then someone bought the former Cinema Variétés building in Brussels-City, promising to re-open it eventually for movies and as an arts centre.

While Styx appears to be struggling to maintain a regular schedule, the Palace cinema is much more ambitious. With a handful of film industry heavyweights behind it and government funding, the 136-year-old building welcomes British superstar Charlotte Rampling to its grand (re)opening next week.

The former Pathé Palace – once Brussels’ largest entertainment venue, acting as a cinema, music hall and cabaret cafe, took over the building on Anspachlaan in 1913, but the building itself dates from 1881. The Art Nouveau beauty has been fully restored to its former glory.

Every director dreams of a premiere in a place like this, Flemish filmmaker Fien Troch (Kid, Home), who sits on the cinema’s board of directors, told De Standaard. “This is important for Belgian cinema,” she said. “Flemish films have a hard time in Brussels, while French-language films struggle to find an audience in Flanders. This cinema will be a reflection of the city: Multilingual and multicultural.”

Inspiring local movie-goers

A tax shelter for audio-visual productions and government agencies on both side of the language border breathed new life into the local cinema industry some 15 years ago. The non-profit Palace, it is hoped, will do the same for local audiences.

Belgian films do well internationally, but less well in Belgium. That is what the founders of Palace – which include the filmmaking Dardenne brothers and Cinéart film distribution company – hope to change. “As someone who lives in Brussels, I really welcome this,” Flemish film producer Bart Van Langendonck told De Standaard. “A non-profit is less dependent on visitor numbers and can show the films longer than one or two weeks.”

This cinema will be a reflection of the city: Multilingual and multicultural

- Film director Fien Troch

The Palace is home to four cinemas, which will show films with both Dutch and French subtitles. It is supported by the French Community, and Troch says there are talks with the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels to offer additional support.

Because its operating as a non-profit, the cinema will show no advertising before the movies. There is also an on-site restaurant and several reception areas available to rent. Admission price is €8.75, cheaper than the chain cinemas.

“The very best way to promote our cultural heritage is to ensure that it is part of a living, social environment,” says the cinema’s director general Olivier Rey. “I sincerely hope that the future chapters of the Palace will be written by the public.”