If you love movies or architecture, the Pathé Tuschinski Cinema is a shrine you must not miss. It is over the top in every way – from the two huge aquamarine domes at its peak to the lavish swirls of two-inch thick Moroccan carpet under your feet. And, like so much else in the city, this stunning place is touched by the Holocaust.
Opened in 1921 when movies were the latest and greatest thing, the Tuschinski still feels utterly luxurious, with Art Deco, Amsterdam School, Art Nouveau and Jugenstil elements swirled together. You’ll never sit in a plusher chair, more like a throne than a movie seat, with actual space between the rows to pass by. Premieres still happen there, complete with stars and cameras.
When we arrived in the lobby for “The Imitation Game,” we felt a smoldering elegance, with low gold lighting on the marble and bronze bar and the overstuffed furniture. Overhead was a shallow dome with graceful, wavy designs under subtly changing colors. Every wall surface is decorated. Shallow stairs ahead of us led to the main theatre, with others leading to a more modest side cinema.
A man with the well carved features and tall stature of an archangel inspected our tickets. He told us kindly that we were a few hours early, and in about one minute determined other options in nearby theatres, as well as offering to ask his manager for a refund. Dutch efficiency knows no bounds. We weren’t about to miss our chance at the Tuschinski, however, and agreed to return at 9:35 p.m. to our assigned seats.
A Nearby Pub
Since we’d never been to the tourist haunts of the Rembrandtplein which are near the theatre, this seemed like the night to go for a beer and a snack. We chose the Three Sisters Pub rather than more elegant options. It feels like a bit of the old sod, replete with television screens showing sports, intelligent and efficient waitresses, cozy chairs, and well prepared upscale pub grub as well as the standards.
The Tuschinski lobby was full when we got back, but people were moved into the theatre swiftly and efficiently. Ushers at the doors directed people to our assigned seats. At the box office, the lady had given us a choice, and had fulfilled our wishes perfectly.
It felt more like a night at the opera than going to a movie. The sheer scale of the place is huge, at least three stories high, with two balconies. You can even sit there if you pay a little more, and have drinks and snacks delivered to a booth for two.
In the end, it’s not just size, but the décor that gets you: the concoction of lamps, curtains and wall decorations that would be worth seeing even without a movie. The chandelier overhead alone is worth the price of admission, with the four elements of air, water, fire and air holding it aloft.
The Tuschinski was one man’s unbelievable fantasy, carried out by several architects until he got what he wanted. At least one man was fired along the way, and an opinionated dreamer can’t have been easy to work with. He’d already created four theaters in Rotterdam, and this was to be his masterpiece. The result may be a mixture of different styles, but it works.
The whole place is redolent of an era when movies were glamorous, when the only way to see them was to come to a theater and be wowed that pictures could move, when you dressed up and saved up for the privilege.
If you go,
At the least peek into the lobby. The theatre is at Reguliersbreestraat 26-34, basically between the Muntplein end of the Flower Market and the Rembrandtplein. Here’s a map.
At best see a movie there, and be sure it will be in the main theatre (Grote Zaal) and in English if you don’t speak Dutch (OV beside the movie name indicates original version). For the schedule, look here or just drop by, which is more fun and more accurate for the non-Dutch speaker.
If you want to learn more, take the audio tour (45 minutes long) which is offered in the mornings before the movies begin. Information in English is here.
The Story behind the Tuschinski Cinema
Abram Icek Tuschinski intended to go to America when he fled the Polish pogroms (organized massacres of Jewish people). But fate detained him en route in Rotterdam, and he caught the bug of the movies. Read more about what happened to him and his theater under the Nazis.