Cinemas in Other Cities – an Occasional Series. #2 – Amsterdam

Holland – a small country with a big heart for cinema. Everywhere you go seems to have its own Filmhuis, but Amsterdam has cinemas galore, over 40 of them crammed into that little city, from the amazing Art Deco Tuschinski Theatre –
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– to the spanking new state-of-the art EYE film museum.
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At the EYE, you can watch hundreds of films in the museum’s interactive viewing pods, choose excerpts to be projected on the walls from different categories such as “Screen Idols” “Colour” or “Animation”, and generally spend a day there watching films for hours.

There’s a cinema and an exhibition space (A David Cronenberg retrospective while I was there, complete with viewing screens and some grisly artefacts from the films. Ghoulishly entrancing to see the Mantle Retractor from “Dead Ringers” and the cockroach from “The Naked Lunch” in the flesh, though it was a bit disconcerting to get your hand stamped so you could come back in later; after watching a few scenes from ExistenZ and Shivers I was half expecting the stamp mark to open up like an alien orifice – but it was just ordinary ink, thank goodness) Meanwhile, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” was playing on the wall of the cafe space. Also, a book and postcard shop full of juicy screen goodness. Film heaven.

In contrast, the Filmtheatre de Uitkijk, The Movies and the (Pathe) Tuschinski are old fashioned cinema buildings, though all with modern facilities. The Tuschinski originally seated 1200 and hosted performances by Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, with its own orchestra and Wurlitzer organ.

DSC00027Pillars, art deco lamps, potted palms, murals and an extravagant hand woven carpet set the scene for a grand cinematic experience – and it’s still like that today, even if the films themselves are a bit disappointing. The Tuschinski is now part of the Pathe chain and just seems to show new releases and all the blah mainstream Hollywood multiplex stuff. But it’s still surely the coolest multiplex in the western world. And it has a great bar. Since extensive renovations over the past 20 years or so, there are now a mere 740 seats though these include love seats and private boxes. And “You may order wine and small meals to your private box“. Oo-la la!

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