~pathé tuschinski~

August 7th, 2008

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The comparison was already floating through my mind, of Amsterdam with San Francisco. The cafes, the bohos, the acceptance of people as they are–and a certain air of self-acceptance that comes from living in a Mecca of so-called tolerance.
And, so I had read, Amsterdam even has it’s own refurbished Deco movie house, Pathé Tuschinski.

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Then I saw it. Though the Castro Theatre has long held my heart as the most romantic movie theater on earth, Tuschinski’s has now absconded with the title.

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Abraham Icek Tuschinski (1898-1942) arrived to Rotterdam from Poland at the beginning of the 20 century. Legend paints him as a poor, self-taught Jewish tailor who caught the (new) cinema bug and managed to open four cinemas in Rotterdam before moving in 1917 to Amsterdam and beginning construction (at the final cost of 4 million guilders) on what is now Pathé Tuschinski in the slum district of Duivelshock (Devil’s Corner).

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Opened in 1921, Pathé Tuschinski has a spectacular mix of styles, as designed by Hijman Louis de Jong; swirling Amsterdam School, Jugendstil, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It has an imposing façade with two towers on both sides, rising above the still less than glamorous neighborhood.

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The interiors, designed by Pieter den Besten and Jaap Gidding are absurdly gorgeous, with moody ever-changing lighting and walls featuring butterfly lady, peacock, and leaping gazelle murals, carvings in dark wood, glazed tiles and bronze details.

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The corridors of Tuschinski are a plush Moroccan carpeted labyrinth that calls to mind assignations between reels. They lead to many private suites and once, a cabaret named La Gaîté, a Japanese tea room, and a Moorish suite.

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The main cinema–nicknamed both plum cake and dowager bonbon box–has an allure of an opera house, with two big balconies hanging above the audience and a large cinema organ Wurlitzer-Strunk. Tuschinski once also had a resident 16 instruments orchestra and presented stage shows of Maurice Chevalier, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Domino, Dionne Warwick, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, and Edith Piaf. There are so many homo jokes to make here I simply can’t choose one.

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During the German occupation, Abraham Tuschinski and his family died in Nazi concentration camps. The cinema was renamed “Tivoli”, but was returned to it’s rightful title after the war.

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The resident orchestra was disbanded in 1969 and the organ ceased to play before the movies in 1974. Lame!
However! One can still rent a private box for two and be served champagne while watching, say, the latest Batman movie. This is not too shabby, as my grandpa would say.

One Response to “~pathé tuschinski~”

  1. Noria says:

    I want to live there! In the theater! Like those kids in the Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler book who lived in the Met.

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