For all their financial struggles in recent years, not least since the costly switch to digital projection, Brussels still boasts a fertile landscape of independent and art-house cinemas. Here’s our guide to Brussels’ alternative movie theaters showing the very best of world cinema.
As far as unconventional spaces go, Cinema Nova tops the list. Its manifesto – yes, they have one – states that it was founded nearly 20 years ago to explore and present possible alternatives to an increasingly commercialized society. Cinema, in its broadest sense, is here understood as a tool to engage an audience in often marginalized debates. True to its word, this non-profit cinema is largely run by a group of volunteers dedicated to screening independent productions which limited commercial potential runs the risk of falling through mainstream distribution networks. Programing is devised in monthly themes, each of which brings a number of guests to the venue.
Housed in the same architecturally noteworthy building of the dearly missed Cinema Arenberg (1932), Cinema Galeries (2012) is the youngest independent cinema in Brussels. The cinema now boasts renovated halls and new digital projectors, lighting up two screens with the latest art-house titles daily. From time to time, the cinema programs a retrospective – one on the work of David Lynch in 2014 proved particularly popular – running in parallel to cross-disciplinary exhibitions housed in a curated space beneath the screening rooms.
Programming at the Cinematek, or Belgium’s official royal film archive, runs not unlike a year-round film festival. Reached through a side entrance of the BOZAR arts center, it is home to two screening rooms – an especially cozy one seats no more than 27 people – and screens a varied selection of titles pulled out from a library of over 70,000 different film titles. Every three months, the institution prints out a rather thick screening schedule, divided thematically or by particular actors and directors. Live piano music accompanies silent projections, a ticket for which will set you back a mere 4 euros – making it Brussels’ cheapest cinema as well.
Getting to Actor’s Studio requires some concerted effort. Hordes of tourists pack the narrow streets around Rue de Bouchers, and restaurant staff from a string of seafood eateries does not miss an opportunity to invite you to a table. The entrance, shared with the Floris Arlequin Hotel, is not too easily noticeable either. Once inside though, this charming two-screen cinema offers a small, if not eclectic, selection of titles ranging from the better received Hollywood titles to international art-house features.
Looks like it's closedHours or services may be impacted due to Covid-19
Cinema Vendôme first opened its doors as a single screen cinema back in 1952. Since then, it has continuously brought the public some of the most thought-provoking programming in the city. Following a series of periodic expansions, also crowning it as the first multiplex anywhere in Brussels, the cinema is now equipped with five theaters and a total capacity of around 900 seats. Year round, it screens a widely varied program which holds a special place in auteur and art-house cinema, as well as playing host to a number of film-festivals.
Close to the city-center’s Bourse district, and tucked away in the maze that is the Galeries du Centre shopping mall, Cinema Aventure boasts the most comfortable seats and lush interiors of any cinema in Brussels. Two screening rooms – a small blue one and a bigger red one – capable of also showing 3D features, screen a selection of international art-house titles, documentaries, and more mainstream films which have made their way out of the bigger multiplexes. A number of screenings are available for pre-booking on Arsène 50, offering you a significant discount on the full fare.