Hidden Belgium: The indie picture house

Hidden Belgium: The indie picture house

Prepare yourself for a shock. Cinema Nova in Brussels is not your normal multiplex experience. The seats are hard. The walls are bare. But it has a loyal fan base that has kept it going for 25 years.

This small alternative cinema was established in 1997 in the former Studio Arenberg, which had been abandoned for a decade. Run by volunteers as a non-profit organisation, it looks more like a squat. The bar is furnished with ancient sofas and old car seats.

Back in the late 1990s, the cinema sector was in crisis. it seemed as if Kinepolis and UGC were the future. Nova proved them wrong by screening alternative films that the cinema chains refused to show. The bar became a space where people liked to gather to talk about film.

They called it Nova after the star that burns brightly for a short time before it disappears. The cinema was only meant to run for two years. But it is still going strong.

Don’t be put off by the raw, scruffy interior. This is one of the most exciting arthouse cinemas in Europe, with an ambitious and inspiring programme of experimental films that you will never see anywhere else.

Over the years, the cinema has focused on themes like Lithuanian cinema, the Berlin Wall or psychedelic movies. It has also screened films in uncommon locations dotted across the city, including the abandoned La Chapelle railway station, a nature reserve in Evere and a downtown alley. Check the online programme to see what is coming soon.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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