Palace Cinema

Rue Pont d'Avroy 21,
Liege 4000

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Palace Cinema

The 1,500-seat Leige Palace opened in 1911 as a music hall, but soon became a cinema. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2Manual/8Rank organ. In 1972 a second screen was opened. In 1977 the original auditorium was split into 5-screens.

It has been operated by the Kinepolis Group since 1983. Seating capacities are: 110, 150, 179, 125 and 450.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 23, 2009 at 5:50 am

The Palace Cinema, photographed in May 2007:
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Lionel
Lionel on February 17, 2020 at 10:32 am

The “Liège Palace” (that is its original full name) was the main cinema of my childhood.


It was a single-screen cinema equipped with the original genuine Cinemascope (2.55 aspect ratio) and 4-track magnetic sound in the fifties. Back then, it was a major theatre in the country, though not located in the capital, and had stage shows preceding the projection of the feature film. It belonged to a joint venture of independent exhibitors, and was home to many 20th Century Fox super-productions.


Much later it became the property of the Defawe family who split it into a 6-screen multiplex in the mid-seventies. The result was poor. Small screens and mono sound only. The largest auditorium had 628 seats and got equipped with the Rank optical stereo sound system. In the mid-eighties it was sold to the Claeys family who added 3 screens in unused premises, enlarged all existing screens by removing the screen masking and curtains. Dolby Stereo was installed in all theatres. In 1989, the largest auditorium and one of the 2 mid-size ones (255 seats) were equipped with 70mm and THX Sound System. In order to create a new projection booth at the back of the bigger auditorium (instead of keystone) for their new 70mm screen, the seating capacity was reduced to 589.


Because of the lack of masking and curtains, the THX baffle wall of the main auditorium was visible, and the 4 JBL subwoofers appeared under the screen. Along with them were 3 JBL 4675 systems with double bass cabinets (that makes 4 woofers and 1 tweeter per channel) for the left, center and right channels. There were no intermediate central left and central right speakers, as they were no longer needed for Dolby Stereo mixes, even in 70mm. The surround speakers were JBL 8330 (6 on each side wall and 4 on the rear wall). In the booth was a new Philips-Kinoton DP75 projector with platters. When showing a film in 70mm, the ads and trailers were shown on a separate projector, an old Cinemeccanica. The sound rack contained a Dolby CP200 processor with magnetic preamplifier, accessory unit to handle split surround effects on some 70mm films and SRA5 decoder for optical Dolby SR. The B-chain consisted of the THX 3417 crossover-monitor and 8 JBL 6290 amplifiers.

In the smaller THX auditorium, announcing 70mm in Dolby Stereo was a bit of a rip-off, as the booth was only equipped with a Dolby CP55 processor which cannot handle 6-channel Dolby Stereo mixes from 70mm films. It can only playback non-Dolby 4-channel sound in the old 35mm Cinemascope configuration. So, here, the sound would be driven from the magnetic preamplifier to the 4-channel input of the CP55, therefore losing the sub-bass effects (and optional split surround effects) from tracks #2 and #4, then played without Dolby expansion which resulted in audible hiss. There were 3 JBL 4675 speakers and 1 subwoofer behind the screen. The surrounds consisted of JBL 8330, 4 on each side wall and 2 on the rear wall. They were powered by 5 JBL 6290 amplifiers. The projector was a Cinemeccanica V8 with Kinoton platters. This second THX auditorium was also equipped in Dolby SR.

The first film shown in 70mm was a special screening of Francis Coppola’s Tucker in spring 1989. As of September 1989, regular first runs started with Batman, followed by The Abyss then Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In 1990, Die Hard 2 played in 70mm as well. Other 70mm engagements were brief re-runs of Cobra (with Stallone) and The Bear (from Jean-Jacques Annaud). Special screenings of the restored Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus also took place. And that was it with 70mm.

The foyer was elegantly appointed, with red carpet and walls, and an attractive bar for refreshments – including alcohol – and popcorn. Despite the imperfections (that only a professional or an enlightened amateur would usually notice), the new technology stroke the right chord with the public and boosted attendances. The Palace became the main cinema in town and attracted crowds from outside. The new front however, covered with white walls and tacky fake gold, contrasted with the elegance of the rest of the street, one of the main posh streets of the city, with shops for Godiva chocolate, good restaurants, Cartier jeweller, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent retail (since then however, the street dramatically declined in the 21st century).

In the nineties, the Palace was an early adopter of digital sound and Cliffhanger (with Stallone) was the first film shown in Dolby Digital using a DA10 decoder connected to the main auditorium’s CP200 processor. DTS was installed as well.


At the beginning of the new millenium, it was entirely refurbished and 4 theatres out of 9 were closed. In the 5 remaining ones, seating capacity was reduced by replacing the old seats with new larger ones, and increasing the row depth. The front of the building received a new decoration, very common but at least no longer tacky. Attendances had dropped dramatically after the opening of the 16-screen Kinepolis on the outskirts of the city, and I myself hadn’t come to the Palace for years until I came back in 2002 for a second viewing of Attack of the Clones in the main auditorium, after having seen it at Kinepolis. I noticed a sound quality issue typically indicating worn-out tweeters on the screen channels.

Later, the 70mm projector of the bigger auditorium was replaced with a 2K digital projector and XDC Digital Cinema server. I saw The Day after Tomorrow in 2004, the image was impeccable. This was my last visit to the Palace until 2019.

I paid a visit to the main auditorium in November 2019 out of curiosity, and found it totally unattractive. The sound was good though, the tweeter issue having been fixed although they still use the original THX installation (no longer certified) from 1989. The largest auditorium of the complex now has 450 seats (see my pictures added to the Photos section). All auditoria were refurbished with black color (or dark grey) as the only colour for floor, seats, walls and ceiling.

CF100
CF100 on March 1, 2020 at 12:53 am

Lionel: Fascinating write-up and lots of technical information there, thank you.

I can’t believe the baffle wall was visible?

The 4675’s really need upgrading. A single subwoofer is certainly woefully inadequate! (Even if it’s the dual 18" type?)

Would certainly be interesting to have something of a comparison between the old 4675’s and more recent speakers. Wonder if they still have the old THX crossover or if the cards were removed when the certification was dropped; or perhaps “aftermarket” replacement cards were installed?

Lionel
Lionel on March 2, 2020 at 11:39 am

@ CF100

In both THX auditoria, the baffle is visible because of the absence of screen masking and curtains. You just need to pass your head between the baffle and the screen to see the speakers.

I doubt they replaced the cross-over cards. Since the mid-eighties, the Palace belongs to the Kinepolis Group which was also the parent company of Decatron, a theatre installation contractor licensed to install, certify and re-certify THX cinemas in Belgium. So they did what they wanted with it. They however ceased advertising THX in this cinema just a few years after it was launched.

Recently I spoke over the phone with one of the former projectionists. He told me that, already several years ago, they threw away everything that was in the booths when the complex went all digital. Film projectors and JBL amplifiers (and BGW amplifiers for some of the screens) are gone. However, at least in the main auditorium, the JBL speaker installation from 1989 remains, still bi-amplified of course but with new hardware in the booth.

Lionel
Lionel on March 2, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Evolution of seating capacity and screen numbering at the Palace which opened in 1911 as a music hall and cinema with 1500 seats:

In 1974, an additional small theatre is added behind the stalls of the big one. It is called the Studio Palace and the big one is therefore referred to as the Grand Palace. Access to the stalls was through the main entrance in the Pont d'Avroy street and access to the balconies was by the rear of the building on the Place St-Paul. Each entrance had its cash desks. The rear entrance now also serves the Studio Palace.

In 1977, the Grand Palace is split in 5. With the Studio Palace, it is now a 6-screen multiplex where screens 1-4 are accessible by the Pont d'Avroy street (main entrance) while screens 5-6 are accessible by the rear of the building on Place St-Paul.

Screen #1, on the ground floor, with approximately 250 seats. Screen #2, on the ground floor, with approximately 150 seats. Screen #3, on the ground floor, with approximately 150 seats. Screen #4, located above screen #1, with 255 seats and stadium seating. Screen #5, on the ground floor, is the former Studio Palace with approximately 180 seats. Screen #6 is an extension from the upper balcony of the Grand Palace and has 628 seats. Rear half has stadium seating, front half is on a sloped floor.

In 1986, three screens are added and the entrance is now exclusively by the Pont d'Avroy street for all 9 screens:

Screen #1 is renumbered #4. Screen #4 is renumbered #5. Screen #5 is renumbered #7. Screen #6 is renumbered #9. New screen #1 with 113 seats, stadium seating and a 1.85 screen was built in former apartments on an upper floor of the house containing the Palace main entrance. New screen #6 with about 72 seats is built in the basement in old rest room space. New screen #8 with about 85 seats and stadium seating, is built in unused space on a former balcony level.

In 1989, screens #5 and #9 are refurbished with bigger screens, a 70mm projector and a THX sound system. The seating capacity of #9 is reduced from 628 to 589 to make room for a new projection booth at the rear of the auditorium.

In the first decade of the new millenium, screens #2, #3, #6 and #8 are closed. Screens 2-3, which were alongside each other, are torn down to make room for new and bigger toilets (with wheelchair access) and concession stands. In all auditoria, seating capacity is reduced after the installation of new wider seats on deeper rows.

Screen #4 is renumbered #2.
Screen #5 is renumbered #3.
Screen #7 is renumbered #4.
Screen #9 is renumbered #5.

Today, the complex only uses digital projection. According to the Kinepolis website, seating capacity and digital options are as follows:

Screen #1: 110 seats, Dolby 5.1.
Screen #2: 150 seats, Dolby 5.1, 3D, HFR.
Screen #3: 179 seats, Dolby 5.1.
Screen #4: 125 seats, Dolby 5.1, 3D.
Screen #5: 450 seats, Dolby 5.1.

In my opinion, screens offering the best sightline are #1 for 1.85 and #3 for scope. The most disappointing screen is #5 because of its small size versus auditorium volume.

CF100
CF100 on March 3, 2020 at 1:28 am

Lionel:

Recently I spoke over the phone with one of the former projectionists. He told me that, already several years ago, they threw away everything that was in the booths when the complex went all digital. Film projectors and JBL amplifiers (and BGW amplifiers for some of the screens) are gone. However, at least in the main auditorium, the JBL speaker installation from 1989 remains, still bi-amplified of course but with new hardware in the booth.

That makes sense as those electronics are getting on and these days commerical amplifiers tend to be “Class D” or other power efficient types.

Kind of ironic to keep the old speakers when a key motivation behind the original THX programme was to act as a catalyst for the replacement of previous generation (Altec, Vitavox, etc.) cinema speakers. Still, 4675’s in a baffle wall were once state-of-the-art and they should still sound good today. The main problem would actually seem to an insufficient number of subwoofers for LFE.

Is this venue still popular?

Lionel
Lionel on March 3, 2020 at 8:36 am

It’s 1 subwoofer in a theatre that now has 179 seats, so I assume it’s still compliant, wouldn’t you think so? As you know, the quantity depends on the dB the speaker is able to deliver versus room volume. I have the JBL brochures to calculate required amplification and speakers, but too lazy to read them again ;–)

This cinema was about to close 10 years ago or so, then it regained a bit of popularity, just enough to keep afloat, and they decided to leave it open.

CF100
CF100 on March 5, 2020 at 12:04 am

It’s 1 subwoofer in a theatre that now has 179 seats, so I assume it’s still compliant, wouldn’t you think so? As you know, the quantity depends on the dB the speaker is able to deliver versus room volume. I have the JBL brochures to calculate required amplification and speakers, but too lazy to read them again ;–)

Depends on whether it’s single or dual 18".

Having a quick look at the spec. sheet for the single 18" JBL 4645… If it’s 179 “regular” seats then it might be OK down to 40Hz or so. Don’t forget for digital reference level for LFE is 115dB peak at the listening position! It really is penny pinching not to add more LFE capability. Of course, hitting peak reference levels at those frequencies might cause problems with “leakage” in adjacent auditoria, if the soundproofing isn’t highly specified. ;–)

Lionel
Lionel on March 5, 2020 at 12:16 am

It was a single 18", powered by a bridged JBL 6290 amp. I doubt it was model 4645, or an earlier version of it, because the enclosure was different, very unusual. I found once the specs sheet on the web, then lost it and wasn’t able to find it again even on archival sites (JBL or other). Same subwoofer model was also used in the main auditorium. I’ll make a quick drawing of it and send it by mail.

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