My maternal grandmother absolutely loved movies. And she let us, her grandchildren, share in that love. She took us to classic film musicals like The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. And together we laughed at the weird antics of Les Gendarmes de Saint Tropez, a French comedy. Also thanks to her, I got an eye for the buildings where the films were shown, including a number of beautiful Art Deco movie theatres.
The rise of cinemas in the Netherlands coincided with the rise of Art Deco. This art movement owes its name to the exhibition ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ in Paris. That exhibition took place in 1925, but at least 10 years before that, buildings had been designed with Art Deco characteristics: rich colours, geometric figures, zigzag lines, and stylized forms.
In cinemas those rich colours were mainly found in the interior and less on the façade.
Art Deco Movie Theatres in The Hague
Let me start with the bad news: There are no more beautiful, rich, Art Deco cinema interiors left to see in The Hague. But fortunately we can still enjoy the facades.
Studio – Kettingstraat
In 1912, the first real cinema in The Hague was opened in the Kettingstraat, under the name Residentie Bioscoop. Films had already been screened in The Hague before, as early as 1896 in the Kurhaus, but this was the first building that was built especially for film screenings. The architect was Louis Simons.
In 1934 the name was changed to Studio. I remember it (only from outside!) as mainly a sex cinema, which it was from 1979 to 1987. Since 1990 there has been no cinema there, and today it is now a House & Techno Club.
Rex – Lange Poten
Where we now enter the Paagman Bookstore on the Lange Poten, until 1977 the Rex cinema could be found. The 1919 building was designed by The Hague architect Cornelis van den Hoogenband and was commissioned by the N.V. Company for Development of Hotels, Restaurants & Coffeehouses. In 1978 the building burned out completely and after that an almost entirely new building was erected behind the façade.
Asta - Spui
Asta at Spui had its opening premiere on Christmas Day 1921. In De Telegraaf of December 29th it was noted: “.. The Hague now has its movie theatre palace” … “the theatre can accommodate almost two thousand visitors and the realization has cost a few million dollars”. During this premiere a specially composed “Asta march” was played. Like most cinemas then, Asta had its own in-house orchestra. The cinema was named after Asta Nielsen, a very famous film actress at that time.
The building was designed by architect Jan Willem van der Weele and interior and glass designer Chris Lambeau. The original facade was removed and replaced in 1938, from a design by Van den Hoek. The last film was screened there in 198.
I show you more beautiful Art Deco buildings in the city centre of The Hague during my Art Nouveau & Art Deco walk on May 19.