A Film Buff's Guide To Antwerp, Belgium

Cinema Urbana in Antwerp | © Sigrid Spinnox, Courtesy of Zomer van Antwerpen
Cinema Urbana in Antwerp | © Sigrid Spinnox, Courtesy of Zomer van Antwerpen
Cinema has traditionally been a popular pastime for the people of Antwerp. Even today the port city boasts several household names committed to keeping the cinephile flame alive and well. In our list of essential Antwerp spots for film lovers, a passion for the classics as well as a fondness for fresh, offbeat programming shines through.

Europe’s best at Cartoon’s

The coziest city cinema in all of Antwerp, Cartoon’s (open since 1978) is the place you’ll find that quality European movie you’ve heard your cinephile friends raving about. Only a stone’s throw behind City Hall, the small theater combines a winning location in the historic center with tasteful and alternative programming.

When the household name went down in 2013, Antwerp’s cinephiles saw a dry spell on the horizon they couldn’t possibly live with. Action was undertaken to save the Antwerp landmark and a year later Cartoon’s was back up and running. The renewed plush seating, perfected digital projection and refreshing spirits from the basement bar downstairs make for an even better viewing experience at the most authentic theater in town.

Classics and live soundtracks at Cinema Zuid

Another great alternative for those shunning the 24-auditorum megaplex outside the city center is Cinema Zuid. Named after the neighborhood where a lot of cultural giants have found a home of late, Cinema Zuid is located inside the FOMU, Antwerp’s photography museum. Somewhat of a cousin to Brussels’ Cinematek, the small two-screen theater keeps the gems of a rich film history in our hearts and at our fingertips.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings show pictures from the thirties through fifties, with the silent ones accompanied by live tunes from the resident pianists. Weekly matinees of beloved classics are perfect for waxing nostalgic while the youngest film lovers among us can enjoy animation and kid’s movies on Sundays. Regular extras include small festivals, director talks and a platform for new talents to show their stuff.

Cinema Zuid Courtesy of Cinema Zuid

Open-air magic at Cinema Urbana

Watch a movie atop a blanket and a makeshift beach with the soft summer breeze caressing your face. Cinema Urbana’s winning formula draws a larger film-loving crowd to its open-air screenings every single year. Organized within the larger context of the Summer of Antwerp initiative, 2015’s edition in the cozily decorated hangar next to the river Schelde was a great hit and no wonder. Free entrance, free soup during the break and a different thematic program every season. We can think of few better ways to spend your summer nights.

Locations differ depending on the season. 2016’s edition will be held next to the Schelde, at the Plantinkaai.

Cinema Urbana, an open-air movie delight © Sigrid Spinnox, Courtesy of Zomer van Antwerpen

Engaging stuff at Film House Klappei

Over on the other side of the city, in the area known as ‘North’ or ‘Seefhoek’, lies proof that love for cinema really does pervade all of Antwerp. Film House Klappei forms the resident haven for cinephiles and especially those with a sweet tooth for documentaries or Italian film. The most socially engaged of them all, Klapei frequently hosts film nights and debates for active Antwerp organizations and gladly welcomes schools to teach the young ones a thing or two about the magic of the movies.

A nostalgic setting at the Roma

Not only the most luxurious setting for a night of film but also the most nostalgic one, the Roma in the neighborhood of Borgerhout breathes film history. Once the biggest movie theaters in the entire city with a whopping 2,000 seats, the building stands tall as a surviving pillar of Belgium’s early cinematic history. Besides film there was room for variety shows and spectacles of all kinds, with a gorgeous view from the upper balcony that still exists.

Today the renovated temple of culture is a shining example of what a tightknit community of art lovers can accomplish. After being abandoned for twenty years the Roma was spruced up by volunteers in 2002. The glorious space again became a cultural force and place for people from all walks of life to meet, with two to three weeknights dedicated to maintaining its tradition of diverse movie programming.

The grand hall of the Roma, right before a 2015 renovation © KOLMANSKOP Films/Vimeo

Catch the bug at the Youth Film Festival

Hoping to give every young soul the film bug is Jeff, mascot to the European Youth Film Festival. As a microbe he has the power to infect anyone with the film virus and does the best he can in Antwerp and Bruges to make sure Belgian kids discover the wonders of cinema at an early age. Several days filled with screenings, animations, media labs and all sorts of side activities are meant to get the creative juices going and maybe even get some young ones dreaming about an illustrious movie career for themselves some day.

Timmerwerfstraat 40 at Zuiderspershuis and Turnhoutsebaan 139 at EcoHuis Antwerpen