Cinematek: an expanded tour of defunct cinemas

Nine venerable cinema seats, memories of various eras, await you in the space of the Cinema Museum, at Cinematek.

With your phone, scan a barcode and you are immersed in a short sequence in the history of a Brussels cinema.

The nine sequences take you back to the glory days of the Eldorado, Palace, Plaza, Galeries, Mirano, Nova, Rio, Stockel and Variétés cinemas.

This scenography Cinemas in Brussels: “Augmented” was designed by the visual artist duo Christl Lidl and Christian Châtel.

It prolongs the vast panorama drawn up in the fascinating work Cinemas in Brussels by Isabel Biver, with photographs by Marie-Françoise Plissart, published in October 2020.

Read: Interview with Isabel Biver

The duo of scenographers has already collaborated with Isabel Biver for an installation at the Rio cinema, in Laeken. The installation had already been presented during Heritage Days in 2021.

The Marivaux cinema around 1953.
The Marivaux cinema around 1953. ©DR

Touching testimonials

A montage of period photos is accompanied by sound testimonies evoking the place. The stories are complementary, forming a brief history of cinema in Brussels.

The particularly touching one, retracing the closure of Variétés and its sine die transformation into a commercial space, is particularly eloquent, at a time when dark rooms are facing competition from streaming all over the world.

For the record, the nine cinema seats come from the collection of the firm Fibrocit, partner of the installation. Based in Courtrai, centenary since 2020, it is the leader of this niche market in the Benelux. It has equipped many Belgian halls and still restores the seats of historic halls today.

The augmented reality experience makes it possible to rediscover cinemas that have disappeared from Brussels at Cinematek.
The augmented reality experience makes it possible to rediscover cinemas that have disappeared from Brussels at Cinematek. ©Marie Noelle Boutin

The augmented reality experience continues with the display of a few documents – programs, announcements of upcoming releases. Superimposed on a tablet, they play excerpts from films programmed in the past.

Three screens also present the photos of Marie-Françoise Plissart which illustrate Cinemas in Brussels.

Cinemas on screen

Cinemas in Brussels: “Augmented” is completed by four encounters and a thematic program of 25 films whose theme is the magic of cinema (Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore), use movie theaters for sets, if only in an emblematic scene (Annie Hall of Woody Allen, the end ofInglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino) or presenting their poetic version of augmented reality (The Purple Rose of Cairo of Woody Allen, where the hero of a film leaves the screen).

Some of his works evoke, as an extension of the exhibition, the disappearance of the rooms, such as Goodbye, Dragon Inn by Tsai Ming-liang. There will even be a “meta” screening, with the screening of Outside the walls by David Lambert, a scene of which takes place at Cinematek.

We will add to this anthology the forthcoming resort, in a restored version, of Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, a wandering in the geographical imagination of Hollywood whose encrypted subject, according to certain interpretations, is none other than the illusion of cinema.

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