The fascinating history of the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre
The Pathé Tuschinski Theatre is a cinema in the centre of Amsterdam, a building that looks as though it’s been built for the very purpose of being looked at. It’s the kind of space you enter and feel like you’re walking into a strange optical illusion.
Going to the cinema is all about the experience, and this one adds extra dimensions of glamour, comfort and imagination that you won’t find anywhere else. Located just off Rembrandtplein and a stone’s throw from the famous flower market, you may or may not have noticed it. Once you become aware of it, though, it’s impossible to ignore!
The most beautiful cinema in the Netherlands
With an Art Deco façade and dazzling interior design, it has been dubbed the most beautiful cinema in the Netherlands and some even say it’s the most stunning cinema in the world! It’s full of glazed tiles, ceramic sculptures, decorated wrought-iron decorations, plush lamps and sumptuous carpets.
The main hall is seriously mind-blowing. On your visit, you might want to leave some extra time before or after your film to admire your surroundings and bask in the architectural ingenuity. Just as you might expect, as well as the Hollywood blockbusters, Tuschinski shows arthouse gems too.
The Pathé Tuschinski Theatre hails from the 1920s. It was designed by the architect Hijman Louis De Jong but named after Abraham Icek Tuschinski who commissioned it. There’s a strong emphasis on the Art Deco style, though there is a definite blending of other styles too, such as Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, the Dutch Amsterdam School of architecture, as well as Tuschinski’s own one-of-a-kind ideas.
High-end and ahead of its time
The building costs were – unsurprisingly – sky high. It cost a total of four million guilders, a lot of money back then! Tuschinski invested in only the best builders, materials and resources.
The electrical installation was state-of-the-art at the time. The heating and ventilation systems were also revolutionary. In the silent-era heyday of cinema, films at Tuschinski were accompanied by film orchestra and an impressive American Wurlitzer theatre organ.
Who was Tuschinski?
Tuschinski was a Polish-Jewish newcomer to the Netherlands with a passion for film. After arriving in the Netherlands, which was only meant to be a brief stop-over on his way to America, he settled in Rotterdam where he worked as a tailor. His business became very successful, meanwhile, his love of film never waned.
By 1911, he was ready to open his first cinema, called the Thalia. He went on to build four cinemas in Rotterdam, in collaboration with his two brothers-in-law. Having seen such a thriving success in Rotterdam, he dreamt of opening a movie theatre in Amsterdam as the ultimate cherry on top of his enterprise.
Building the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre
In 1917, Tuschinski found the perfect site for his theatre, between Rembrandtplein and the Munt. This area, known as the Duvelshoek, is bustling with tourists nowadays, but back then it was a dilapidated slum.
The first foundation stone was laid on June 18, 1919. Tuschinski, although he was far from an expert in architecture, was extremely present and rather domineering in overseeing the building process. The architect Hijman Louis De Jong quit early on in the process and the work was taken over by two other architects.
There were mixed reactions at the time of its grand opening. Whether good or bad, the Tuschinski Theatre was seen as experimental and imposing, making a striking impact on the architecture sphere. Nowadays, it’s a dazzling relic of 1920s glamour.
Tragically, the whole Tuschinski family perished in Nazi concentration camps, as did the architect Hijman Louis De Jong, before he could even make a big name for himself. The theatre was temporarily re-named Tivoli. More recently, preserving its true name, purpose and appearance has been a priority.
Visiting the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre today
And so, the Netherlands’ most beautiful cinema lives on. It has been refurbished many times. From 1998 to 2002, the largest refurbishment took place, restoring the main film theatre back to the way it was when Tuschinski first had it built. More recently, in 2019 and 2020, extensive renovations took place to restore the six theatres to their former glory, with luxurious armchairs and loveseats.
If you are a sucker for great design and simply being in this cinema strikes you as a more exciting experience than the actual film or show, you wouldn’t be far off from Tuschinski’s vision. He wanted the customer experience to be as glamorous and comfortable as possible, but at an affordable ticket price. Possessing the grandeur of an opera house, the theatre still welcomes all walks of life.
If you’re curious about the theatre’s sumptuous splendour, simply go and see it for yourself!
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