Brussels’ best independent cinemas take centre stage

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Cinemas are open! Put your screens down, say goodbye to the streaming platforms you've scrolled through to exhaustion and head to the darkened theatres for something new! But before deciding what to see, take a look at our list of the best independent cinemas in the capital. These small screens in Brussels have retained their unique personality, have programmes that takes you off the beaten track and atmospheres all their own. From arthouse films and retrospectives, to contemporary films and local film-makers, discover the capital's most iconic cinemas.

Cinema Nova

Nova cinéma (c) Julien Hayard

Cinéma Nova announces itself to the street with a joyful, bric-a-brac of colour and charm. In stark contrast to the big chains, this unique cinema advocates an alternative and eclectic approach, a singular and unconventional spirit that has earned it a reputation that has transcended borders.

Still in its original state, the large hall displays a singular charm with its decrepit walls, balcony, small orchestra pit and incredible ceiling. On the programming side, Nova screens both feature-length films and medium or short films, sometimes experimental and often rare. It's the ideal place for a different kind of audiovisual experience in a new setting!

And there’s more: How do you set up a screen under a bridge, in a barracks or in a nature reserve? This is the crazy challenge that PleinOPENair has been taking up for 23 years now. Organised every summer by Cinéma Nova, this open-air, travelling film festival questions what it means to live in the city with boldness and a keen sense of the unusual!

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Kinograph

Kinograph

Brussels’ first pop-up cinema, the Kinograph, has found a home in one of the trendiest projects happening today: the See U. Housed in the former auditorium of the Royal Gendarmerie School, this unique cinema started life as a community project imagined by the CinéCité collective. Operated by a handful of devoted friends, this neighbourhood cinema which cultivates a quirky vibe is close to the student district and its inhabitants.

Sink into its vintage-blue velvet seats and enjoy new releases, cult films and mini-festivals. Don't miss the "Genre et cinéma" (Gender and Cinema)

And there’s more: The Kinograph is also a cinema where viewers are free to get involved through the "prog club" or on social networks to make their wishes heard and contribute to the cinema’s programming.

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Cinéematek 

Cinematek (c) Julien Hayard

We all trembled with pleasure at the idea of (re)discovering a classic, comfortably seated in one of the intimate rooms of La Cinématek. With one of the largest film collections in the world (71,000 titles!), its programming charts the history of the big screen from its origins to the present day.

From anthologies, rare films and retrospectives to themed cycles, let yourself be guided through silent films and contemporary masterpieces. Want to step back in time for an evening? Don't miss the concert screenings, where silent films are accompanied by a live piano! At the heart of the Palace of Fine Arts, this essential institution combines intimate screening rooms with big classics.

And there's more: Take a wander around the neighbouring film museum between screenings. Take a trip through the history and "prehistory" of the big screen with optical boxes, shadow puppets and films from the institution's collections.

 

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Cinema Aventure

Cinema Aventure (c) Julien Hayard

Hidden away down the bustling streets of the city centre, the Aventure is just a short walk from Place de la Monnaie. It devotes its screens to an eclectic programme where mainstream and auteur films live in harmony. It is said that King Baudouin, a great lover of film, liked to frequent it! People go to the Aventure for its rich documentary programme, but also to watch and rewatch films months after they have disappeared from the billboards of big cinemas.

Fully renovated in early 2010, this small cinema dressed in velvet offers a cosy atmosphere underlined by subdued surroundings. The bar lets you have a drink while waiting for your screening or even sip your drink while watching your film - rare enough to merit a mention!

And there's more: The "love seats" in the last row. These twin seats, not separated by armrests, allow you to enjoy a screening close to someone you love...

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Cinema Palace

Cine Palace (c) Julien Hayard

Le Palace presents itself as a link between different districts in the centre of Brussels. Located at the intersection of the pedestrian area, the Flemish district, the Lemonnier district and Boulevard Anspach, it draws in cinephiles from all walks of life.

In addition to being a real architectural gem, its walls tell part of the capital's film history. As early as the 1930s, Le Palace (the largest cinema in Brussels) was a temple of entertainment where, in addition to film screenings, pub concerts and music-hall shows were held. Almost 100 years later, it retains this festive and eclectic spirit. In short, it is a cinema for everyone, open and lively, crowd-pleasing and innovative.

And there’s more: This autumn, the Palace will host the great Louis de Funès exhibition from the French film library. It will be an opportunity to discover all the facets of this giant of cinema, both in character and behind the scenes, and to rediscover his filmography.

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Cinema Vendôme

Cine Vendôme (c) Julien Hayard

A temple of cinema in the heart of Matonge, the Vendôme cinema has been welcoming generations of film aficionados to its screening rooms for over 50 years. Many remember its legendary ushers.

True to its beautiful slogan, "Cultivate emotion", this Brussels institution stands for auteur films and cultural diversity, above all. A pioneer of quality cinema, the Vendôme has made the success of many films that have entered into film legend (such as Satyricon or Last Tango in Paris). In the 1970s, its new screening rooms were inaugurated by Sophia Loren herself! A move and a handful of years later, the spirit of discovery and the family atmosphere of the Vendôme are still in full swing at 18 Chaussée de Wavre.

And there's more: At the cinema, comfort is king. At Le Vendôme, savour the pleasures of the Seventh Art from the depths of a Pullman chair.

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Cinema Galeries

Galeries (c) Julien Hayard

The Royal Saint Hubert Galleries have their own cinema! Built in 1939 by architect Paul Bonduelle, the Cinéma Galeries has been listed since 1993 because of its history and style, which sways between Art Deco and modernism with a few Romanesque touches. A true institution, it celebrated its 80th birthday in 2020, making it the oldest cinema in Brussels!

As the faithful cinema-goers who frequent it like to say, the Cinéma Galeries is not a place for  blockbusters and popcorn. Instead, it devotes itself with passion and curiosity to auteur films, young Belgian film-makers and rare films. Debates, discussions and exhibitions dedicated to independent cinema and contemporary art keep the buzz going after screenings are done.

And there's more: Notice to expats! At the Cinéma Galeries, special screenings are devoted to English speakers, including English subtitles. Go for it guys!

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Le Stockel

Le Stockel

Just a stone's throw from Place Dumont in the commune of Woluwe Saint-Pierre, Le Stockel’s azure facade looks like it has been cut out of a patch of blue sky. With its unique screen, this small, authentic cinema offers the best and "leaves the worst to the multiplexes", as it likes to say. Refurbished in 2020, Le Stockel has retained a 1950s spirit while modernising. With a renovated entrance, new seats and a refreshed decor, this neighbourhood cinema has regained the glory of its youth! What’s more, with screenings for as little as €7, it is one of the cheapest in the capital, and also offers a cutting-edge programme.

Something extra: One of the few (if not the last) real neighbourhood cinemas still in existence on the outskirts of the capital with the soul of a real local cinema.

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