City Theater

Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 15-19,
Amsterdam 10017 RP

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The City Theater opened on 29th October 1935 with the Austrian film “Episode” starring Paula Wessely. The architect of this stunning cinema designed in a Dutch Functionalist style was Jan Wils, with interior design by Oscar Rosendahl and it had a seating capacity of 1,350. The City was equipped with a Strunk 4Manual/17Rank theatre organ which was opened by Reginald Foort who came over from England. Another facility was the provision of a cafe and ballroom.

The City Theater was one of the premier first run cinemas in Amsterdam city centre and is located close to the Leidseplein. In 1972 the use of the organ during regular film shows was stopped and the instrument was only played for special concerts which are still occasionally held today.

In 1973-‘74 major construction work was carried out to alter the cinema into seven screens. City 1 in the former front orchestra stalls has 836 seats and still uses the original proscenium opening and has the organ. The circle was converted into 3 screens, the cafe/ballroom into a single screen and 2 small screens were converted out of areas in the basement, giving the current seating capacity of 1,505.

The City came under the Cannon Cinemas banner in 1984 and was last operated by Pathe, who refurbished it in 1994. Unfortunately, the splendid Art Deco style facade is now mainly covered with metal sheeting and advertising boards.

On February 1, 2007 the City Theater closed for a renovation. Reportedly the exterior will be restored to its original 1935 appearance. Unfortunately the proposals planned include the sub-division of City 1 auditorium (former orchestra stalls level) which had the huge screen in its original proscenium opening and contained the Strunk theatre organ. It re-opened in 2011 as an art house cinema, with seven auditoriums and 625 seats.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Roloff
Roloff on May 9, 2006 at 12:53 pm

The City will be closed any moment now, for a full restoration that will take up to two years. It will become an art house, with probably less screens, maybe around 4. Hopefully they will change the facade back to what it was like in it’s earlier days.
Here’s a postcard from around 1946 where you can see the original facade:
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droben
droben on February 5, 2007 at 4:09 am

According to the Pathe website, the City closed on Feb 1, 2007 and will reopen in mid 2008.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 10, 2007 at 4:03 pm

The opening sentence of the introduction needs correcting. “Episode” was produced in Austria, not Australia! Paula Wessely was an Austrian actress who became one of the biggest stars of Nazi Germany’s film industry, most notoriously in the blatant 1941 propaganda drama, “Heimkehr” (“Homecoming”).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 10, 2007 at 9:41 pm

This 1935 view shows the opening attraction, “Episode,” on the billboard above the entrance: www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/cityamst.jpg

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 11, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Architect Jan Wils would probably flip over in his grave if he saw his creation being classified as “Art Deco,” which is the antithesis of the City’s streamlined modernism. The City Theatre is regarded as a classic example of Dutch “Functionalism,” which was heavily influenced by America’s Frank Lloyd Wright, the Bauhaus in Germany, and Le Corbusier in France. The City’s rival, the Tuschinski Theatre, is considered “Art Deco,” though some critics regard it as pure Kitsch. For more about this, please consult “Amsterdam Architecture: A Guide,” published in English in 1987 by Uitgeverij Thoth.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 11, 2007 at 2:35 pm

The Tuschinski has elements of Art Nouveau and Expressionist, among other designs, but is Art Deco. It is featured in what is just about a centerpiece of the V & A Art Deco book, and is absolutely wonderful.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 12, 2007 at 4:06 am

The Art Deco reference for the City was revised to Dutch Functionalism.

Thanks to Roloff for these 2006 to 2007 photos
Auditorium 1:
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2005 photos Auditorium 1
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Screen 3, added in basement in late 1970’s, closed September 2005
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Screen 4, with many columns, closed for some time before the complex closed for renovation
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Auditorium 5
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Auditorium 7 with his caption
The City was the first cinema in Amsterdam to split it’s original auditorium to become a multiplex. The balcony of the main big auditorium got split into 3 small ones in the late seventies, this one was the last one to be added on March 31st 1977, with 274 seats originally. Rumour has it, the screen can be rolled up so one can view the big screen of the main auditorium again.
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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 12, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Here are two vintage views of the City’s exterior:
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Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Here are views of the City Theatre and other Amsterdam cinemas in a 1950 trade journal: boxofficemagazine

eceleticandveryinspired
eceleticandveryinspired on October 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

rare 1935 interior shot here:

http://bioscoopgeschiedenis.com/bioscopen/noord-holland/amsterdam/city-theater-amsterdam-1935-heden.html

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