Belgium’s best independent cinemas

Even a petition with thousands of signatures couldn’t save Cinema Arenberg, one of Brussels’ most cherished independent film houses, from financial ruin. The Galeries Royales Saint Hubert have refused to renew the rental contract for the cinema, and after more than two decades, the Brussels institution has had to close its doors. And it’s just an example of a much bigger phenomenon: art house and independent cinemas everywhere are under immense financial pressure, thanks in particular to the digitilisation of the movie industry. While the big multiplexes can easily finance new digital projectors, smaller cinemas are struggling: upgrading one room alone costs about €70,000. Nevertheless, there’s talk of a new ‘golden age’, for film in general and art house movies in particular, as The New Yorker recently reported. Salon.com agrees, writing: “We live in an immensely fertile and adventurous period for world cinema, arguably the richest ever.” Besides the difficulties faced by the so-called seventh art, cinema is far from dead. We’ve had a closer look at the cinematographic landscape, and here’s our hand-picked selection of Belgium’s best independent movie theatres – for those of you in need of a break from the country’s legion of  sterile multiplexes and their blockbuster bonanzas…

Brussels

Styx

Styx, which opened its doors more than four decades ago, has only two rooms of 38 seats each and prides itself on being the smallest cinema in the whole of Brussels. Nevertheless, screenings almost never sell-out, giving it an almost living-roomy feel. Located in a typical Ixelles townhouse, it’s a very cozy and intimate cinema, and boasts a hand-picked programme that focusses on high-quality repeats, art house productions, classics and independent releases.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Styx cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas Styx cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas Styx cinema
Styx, Rue de l’Arbre Bénit 72 Gewijde Boomstraat – 1050 Brussels

Vendôme

Founded in 1952 by Henry Fol, Cinema Vendome can look back on quite a long history. A family business, it is now run by the founder’s daughter, Peggy Fol, and has a penchant for “original, intimate and inventive films, which educate and animate a certain reflexion.” With five projection rooms, it offers quite a variety and is also a regular participant in numerous film festivals – from the Brussels Short Film Festival to FIFI, the International Independent Film Festival. The eclectic programme currently features Argentinian fiction on the subject of the slums of Buenos Aires slums with‘White Elephant’, as well as the celebrated documentary ‘More than Honey’ which examines the horrific  consequences of the decline of the world’s bee population, among others.

Belgium's best independent cinemas VENDOME Cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas Vendome Cinema
Cinema Vendôme, Chaussee de Wavre 18 Waversesteenweg – 1050 Brussels
www.cinema-vendome.be

Actor’s Studio

Just around the corner from Brussels’ tourist-packed Grand Place, you’ll find this hidden cinematic gem. Accessible through the lobby of the Floris Arlequin Hotel, this is a lovely little nostalgia-inducing cinema with a small bar and two charming halls. It shows a good mix of big – but well-selected – Hollywood productions (like Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty, for example) as well as lesser-known art house flicks such as ‘The Hunt’, the latest effort by acclaimed Danish director Thomas Vinterberg.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Actors studio
Belgium's best independent cinemas Actors studio
Belgium's best independent cinemas Actors studio
Actor’s Studio, Petite rue des Bouchers 16 Korte Beenhouwersstraat – 1000 Brussels

Cinema Flagey

Flagey’s cultural centre not only screens movies, but also promotes different artistic disciplines – while occasionally attempting to create a link between the two. It frequently shows movie cycles in collaboration with Brussels’ Cinematek; Alfred Hitchcock and James Stewart retrospectives are on the programming cards in the very near future. Flagey also participates in Brussels’ short film festival, the Anima Festival, and will play host to the 11th edition of the Brussels Film Festival this year, in collaboration with Bozar. As a special summer bonus: each year there’s an open air cinema, right outside the building.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Flagey
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Flagey
Cinema Flagey, Place Sainte Croix Heilig Kruisplein – 1050 Brussels
www.flagey.be

Cinema Galeries

Brussels’ youngest latest addition to the movie scene, Cinema Galeries opened its doors in January 2012. Located in the old premises of Cinema Arenberg, the new directors have renovated the halls, installing new screens, digital projectors and adding a small third room for research purposes. It’s all part of ‘Galeries’, a cultural project that also includes a 1000 square metre exhibition space, a bar and a shop. The programme focuses on the films of contemporary directors, and also organises special events for kids. It’s open every single day, with movie screenings from 11 in the morning till midnight.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Galeries
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Galeries
Cinema Galeries, Galerie de la Reine 26 Koninginnegalerij – 1000 Brussels
 
 
Cinema Nova

Cinema Nova has been around for more than a decade. It’s a non-profit organisation, staffed mostly by volunteers and the programme is organised around monthly themes, such as ‘The Beat Generation’ or The Berlin Wall’. Concentrating on fresh, independently produced, unconventional films, the programme includes not just feature films but also short- and medium-length films, documentaries, experimental films and productions that cannot find a distributor. Cinema Nova also embraces all other art disciplines and regularly puts on concerts, exhibitions and performances. It’s even evolved into a small distribution house and developed its own structure of film production.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Nova
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Nova
Cinema Nova, Rue D’Arenbergstraat 3 – 1000 Brussels
www.nova-cinema.org

Antwerp

De Roma

Antwerp’s De Roma, located in the Borgerhout district, dates back to 1928 and is one of Belgium’s oldest cinemas. For a while it was used as a concert venue and welcomed music legends such as Lou Reed and James Brown. A beautiful and historic building, it was closed down in 1982, before being renovated and reopened in 2003. It now offers a vast and eclectic cultural programme that is not limited to cinema but includes readings, concerts, theatre and dance. Fans of the flicks will appreciate quirky treats like a day-long marathon of new Belgian TV series ‘Met Man en Macht’, in addition to the overall well-balanced programming.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Roma
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Roma
De Roma, Turnhoutsebaan 286 – 2140 Antwerp
www.deroma.be

Cartoon’s cinema

Antwerp’s Cartoon’s cinema, opened in 1978, doesn’t specialise in animated film as the name misleadingly suggests. Rather, it’s a place for indulging in quality foreign films and the best in alternative cinema. A small and intimate movie theatre, it’s located in an old disused warehouse in the city’s docklands and includes a cosy café, perfect for pre- and post-screening drinks.

Belgium's best independent cinemas
Belgium's best independent cinemas
Cartoon’s cinema, Kaasstraat 4 – 2000 Antwerp
www.cartoons-cinema.be

Cinema Zuid

Cinema Zuid is a non-profit movie theatre and an initiative of Antwerp’s M HKA. Its goal is to teach and to entertain all at the same time, and to promote a deeper understanding of film, video and television culture. Apart from screenings of movies new and old, visitors are also invited to participate in lectures, courses and workshops.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Zuid
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Zuid
Cinema Zuid, Lakenstraat 14 – 2000 Antwerp
www.cinemazuid.be 

Ghent

Studio Skoop

Studio Skoop consists of five small, cozy film halls located in a beautiful old building. Opened back in the ’70s, Studio Skoop shows everything from Japanese movies from the ’60s to new hand-picked productions such as Tom Tykwer’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. There’s also a nice bar, fittingly decorated with old film posters and photos.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Studio_Skoop_1
Belgium's best independent cinemas Studio_Skoop_3
Studio Skoop, Sint-Annaplein 63 – 9000 Ghent
www.studioskoop.be

KASK Cinema

KASK Cinema is an initiative of the renowned Ghent art school and is open to students and the film-loving public alike. It screens mainly contemporary, undistributed films that test the boundaries of the medium, from pioneering and quirky productions to major milestones in movie history. Plus, you can also catch lectures, readings and debates, and every last Sunday morning of the month, KASK cinema organises something for the kiddies…

Belgium's best independent cinemas KASK Cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas Kask Cinema
KASK Cinema, Godshuizenlaan 4 – 9000 Ghent
kaskcinema.be

Sphinx

Sphinx cinema, constructed in 1912, is located in a building that is recognised by the city of Ghent as a cultural heritage monument. The renowned local Design Museum even has plans, photos and other interesting documents about its long and eventful history. While there’s always been a movie theatre in the historic building, it has not always been known by the same name; Sphinx has existed since 1986 and screens a carefully selected mixture of blockbusters and art house movies, with a special focus on international film festivals from Cannes to Toronto. Sphinx also organises special screening cycles, and even hosted Ghent’s first queer film festival, Pinx in January.

Belgium's best independent cinemas
Belgium's best independent cinemas
Sphinx, St. Michielshelling 3 – 9000 Ghent
www.sphinx-cinema.be

OFFoff

Art Cinema OFFoff, a non-profit, describes itself as a “screening and research platform for experimental film.” Its programme is directed towards an audience that appreciates the formal and esoteric aspects of film, and makes room for avant-garde productions from rising stars while paying attention to the more obscure moments in cinema history. OFFoff also organises lectures that serve as a discussion forum for fim-related topics.

Belgium's best independent cinemas OffOff cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas OffOff cinema
Art Cinema OFFoff, Lange Violettestraat 237 – 9000 Ghent
www.offoff.be/home/index/fr

Liège/Luik

Les Grignoux

Liège’s cultural centre, Les Grignoux, includes three cinemas in three different locations: Parc, Churchill and Sauvenière. Parc and Churchill are rather small-sized and concentrate mainly on art house movies, while Sauvenière, the newest one, is housed in a bigger complex with a number of screening rooms and its own Brasserie. It screens the odd blockbuster here and there and, in March, hosted the Festival Vidéographies, an award competition for the best in short film and video installations.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Grognoux Cinema
Belgium's best independent cinemas Grognoux Cinema
Cinema Le Parc, Rue Paul-Joseph Carpay 22 – 4020 Liège/Luik
Cinema Churchill, Rue du Mouton Blanc 20 – 4000 Liège/Luik
Cinema Sauvenière, Place Xavier Neujean – 4000 Liège/Luik
www.grignoux.be/agenda

Bruges

Lumière Cinema

Bruges’ Cinema Lumière, founded 11 years ago, is located right in the city centre in a gorgeous old building. It screens art house movies and also plays host to the Cinema Novo Film Festival. It’s attached to a publishing and distribution house, and distributes a selection of Scandinavian crime series as well as European art house films like The Misfortunates, and has produced a short film by Raoul Servais.

Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Lumiere
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Lumiere
Belgium's best independent cinemas Cinema Lumiere

lumierecinema.be

Lumière Cinema, Sint-Jakobsstraat 36 – 8000 Bruges