High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

De Roma – How One Man Saved the Most Beautiful Cinema in Flanders
© Facebookpage De Roma
© Facebookpage De Roma © Facebookpage De Roma
The L-Spot

De Roma – How One Man Saved the Most Beautiful Cinema in Flanders

Turnhoutsebaan 286, Antwerp

It was the most beautiful cinema in Belgium when Kinema Roma opened in 1928. The beautiful Art Deco building on Antwerp’s busy Turnhoutsebaan originally combined a 2,000-seat movie theatre with an apartment complex. Volunteers turned the old building after restoration into a cultural centre and performance venue in the heart of a multicultural neighbourhood.

Most of those big old Hollywood-style movie theatres were killed off in the 1970s by television. De Roma limped on for a few years as a venue for rock concerts, but even stars like Paul McCartney on the programme could not save the place, and it closed its doors for the last time in 1982.

De Roma lay empty for many years until Paul Schyvens, director of Rataplan community theatre, came up with a plan to restore the ruined building in 2002. Described as ‘half hippie, half businessman,’ Schyvens fired up a team of passionate locals, who cleared away the rubble, touched up the gilding and bolted down the seats.

The result is a wonderful, nostalgic place to visit. The lobby decorated with copies of film posters from the golden age of movies hand-painted by students at the local art school.

For older people in Borgerhout, the project has brought back memories of a time when De Roma was packed every night. A few people can remember watching the first talking movies here. Others remember watching Singing in the Rain, ice cream, their first kiss, beautiful usherettes in neat black suits.

But De Roma doesn’t dwell too much on the past. The organisers like to call it a people’s palace in the heart of multicultural Borgerhout. The huge Art Deco auditorium still seats about 1,800 people. Its programme covers every form of entertainment including film screenings, rock concerts and comedy nights.

Sign in

Register or sign in to read or purchase an article.


You are visiting this website through a public account.
This allows you to read all articles, but not buy any products.

Important to know

When you subscribe, you give permission for an automatic re-subscription. You can stop this at any time by contacting emma.reynaert@onserfdeel.be.