The exterior and interior of the new Thalia theatre have been stylishly adapted to the changed and, it is to be hoped, ever-changing mindset of today’s cinema-goers. The aim of the modern cinema is no longer the dream formerly conjured up by velvet carpets, but an awareness of real values. Thalia, built in a fan shape because of the available space, features a widening extension towards the rear wall, and contains 800 seats arranged in an amphitheatre formation without a balcony.
Algemeen Handelsblad, 8 July 1955
Tuschinski is a legendary name in the Dutch cinema world. It lives on in the famous Amsterdam cinema, and in the term ‘Tuschinski style’, denoting excessive and extravagant decorations. A Jew from Poland, Abraham Tuschinski (1886‒1942) departed for the United States, but only got as far as Rotterdam. In 1911 he opened his first cinema, Thalia, on Coolvest. It disappeared in 1912 with the clearance of the Zandstraat neighbourhood to make way for construction of the city hall. A second Thalia opened on Hoogstraat in 1916, but was destroyed in May 1940. The bombardment eliminated all of Tuschinski’s cinemas, with a total capacity of 4500 seats.
In a matter of a few months, a large structure has risen from the rubble in Rotterdam: ‘Lutusca’, the new film palace of the Tuschinski chain. If, as is hoped, it opens its doors by Christmas, people will be able to settle down in comfortable seats, which had been produced for a new theatre before the war.
Het Vrĳe Volk, 26 October 1946
From Lutusca to Thalia 3
The 1000-seat emergency theatre Lutusca was built on Kruisplein in 1946, on the initiative of a number of collaborating cinema operators (LUmière, TUschinski, SCAla). The building was designed by the Rotterdam architect J.P.L. Hendriks (1895‒1975). Jan Hendriks also designed the third Thalia cinema on Kruiskade, in collaboration with Lex van den Bosch. The graceful lines and decoration of this building echo some of the pre-war grandeur of the Tuschinski theatres. The first pile for the new building was driven into the ground on 22 June 1954 by ten-year-old Ronnie Gerschtanowitz, a descendant of the family of Abraham Tuschinski’s wife. The building opened in style in July 1955 with not only the inevitable speeches but also three films: the Polygoon film Thalia Has Risen Once More and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom as support programme, followed by the feature film Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Thalia was located at the intersection of Kruiskade and Lijnbaan. This entertainment district also included the Lumière cinema (A. Krijgsman, A. Bodon, 1954‒1958), Corso cinema (Taen & Nix, 1957‒1960), the former Luxor theatre, the Hilton Hotel and the cafés and restaurants on Lijnbaan. But the district was a pale shadow of the pre-war Kruiskade. The cinema is not rectangular but fan-shaped because Kruiskade retained its original diagonal direction in the otherwise orthogonal grid of streets. The line of shopfronts on Lijnbaan had to be continued. The fan shape of the building was also determined by the ideal shape of the large 800-seat auditorium, which visitors entered halfway up the slope in the centre of the building, thus keeping circulation distances to a minimum. The shape of the hall and various inclines optimized views of the screen. The materials on the walls and ceilings defined the acoustic conditions. The fully glazed double-height entrance at the corner functioned as a draught lobby.
Thalia, muse of comedy
The facades of the building are finished in glazed brickwork. Decorative elements in concrete adorn the almost totally blind side facade. Dominating the slightly curved front facade is a decorative concrete relief on a black background. Here, sculptor Carel Kneulman has depicted Thalia, the muse of comedy. The official name of the work is Flourishing Celebration. In the Polytechnisch Tijdschrift of 22 December 1955, A. Maaten commented: “Time will tell whether this relief, which displays both technique and talent, will prove as lasting as the solid building itself.”
Plans to demolish Thalia were first floated in the 1980s, initially to replace it with a new cinema complex, and later with a residential tower. Like the Corso Tower and Luxor Tower, these schemes were abandoned. But the last film was screened at Thalia on 27 March 1996. The cinemas around Lijnbaan closed and relocated to the new Pathé complex on Schouwburgplein. Demolition seemed inevitable, because Pathé had insisted that the building could not house a cinema for the next fifty years. But in 2000 the city designated the building as a protected heritage site, and it reopened in 2002 as Café De Beurs. The redevelopment involved transforming the entrance hall and foyer, as well as the first shop on the Lijnbaan, into a café. The spectacular fan-shaped timber ceiling and the sputnik lamp in the hall have been preserved. The 2014 conversion of the building into Villa Thalia involved removing the chairs and loges in the large auditorium, leaving a large stepped space for receptions, parties and discos.