In 1894, after a long journey of business adventures in Argentina, Charles Morand Pathé returned to France and found a way to bring cinema to almost everyone. Upon seeing the Thomas Edison Kinetoscope, he decided to begin the distribution of cinema projection equipment in Europe, as well as films. In Brussels, on Avenue Anspach, he commissioned architect Paul Hamesse to refurbish a 1886 building and turn it into a large multipurpose venue with a movie theater, a music hall and a cabaret cafe. Hamesse put his Art Nouveau pencil to use and designed a jewel of architectural beauty with a 2,500-seat hall inspired on the Italian nineteenth century theaters.
Formerly known as Pathé Palace, the Palace has reopened its doors to the public in February of 2018. The building’s facade and interiors have been restored to how they once looked, and for the opening night, award-winning actress Charlotte Rampling made the honor to inaugurate the theater and present Hannah, her latest movie performance.
“One of our main goals is to provide a wide variety of offers to everyone,” said Olivier Rey, Director General of the Palace. “We of course want to provide films and entertainment in a conventional way, but we also want to attract the younger generations. To that end, we are also organizing events with cinema and music, cinema and cartoons, there are a lot of different activities planned ahead.”
In this day and age it’s becoming more and more critical to reshape the way cinema is delivered to younger generations. “We have hired a person only for that,” said Mr. Rey. “This person liaises directly with schools, so that we have really young people coming and experiencing cinema with all its different possibilities. We believe it is possible to cater for them here.”
The Pathé Palace closed in the 1970’s when it was turned into a collection of parking spots, in addition to an appliance showroom. It reopened briefly, only to be closed again in 2001. In its current configuration, the Palace contains four screening rooms ranging from 72 to 373 seats. Financial support for the Palace has come from the French Community (Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles), and there have been talks of potential additional funding from the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels. “We wished to create a multicultural meeting place,” said Mr. Rey. “The idea is to have different publics, from different communities coming here to enjoy quality cinema but also to experience something special and exciting, like the Brussels International Film Festival. We want the Palace to be a reflection of the multifaceted nature of Brussels.”
The Palace has been constituted as a non-profit organization, and therefore no advertisements will be shown before the movies. Visitor can enjoy a meal before or after a screening at the on-site restaurant. An entrance to the movie theater costs €8.75.