The cinema hall and its history

1881: What is today the hallway of Cinema Nova was once a vestibule giving lateral access to Café Monico, at nr 1 rue d’Arenberg, right next to the Théâtre Royal de l’Alcazar which used to attract large crowds. At the end of the vestibule was a printing shop that later became a snooker saloon. 

1897: The Cabaret of the XVIth century, which proposed concerts of ancient and modern music, replaced the Monico. The place was divided into two parts, one of which became the reception room for the Taverne Royale, another significant neighbour which, since 1847, has extended from the Galerie du Roi to the adjoining buildings in the rue de l’Écuyer.

1899: The manager of the Taverne Royale bought nr 1 rue d’Arenberg and had it rebuilt in an eclectic neoclassical style. In 1907, the ground floor was taken over by the Taverne Royale.

1902: The numbering of the street changed. The building inside the block was given the number 3A, and became a workshop/store for steam engines, then passementerie (trimmings), and finally interior design and architecture.

1907: The building nr 3A turns into La Maison du Rire, an temporary theatre and café-concert hall.

1908: Pathé settles on the premises. The room became the Cinéma mondain. The orchestra pit allowed musical accompaniment for silent films.

1911: Back on stage with the Théâtre du Bois Sacré and its Brussels shows.

1918: After the war, the Théâtre des Capucines was created that specialized in small plays, revues and operettas.

1936-1987: Converted in a contemporary style, the place became a cinema hall. The Studio Arenberg is depicted as a cinema of intimistic scale, with a sober atmosphere and refined decor, focusing on innovative American films. It went through several changes of manager and transformations, but remained one of the few Brussels cinemas to screen debut films and to focus on underrated filmmakers and so-called marginal productions. In 1985, KredietBank (KB), which owned a large section of the street, bought the cinema and decided to transform it into offices. Despite a strong mobilization to save it, the Studio Arenberg closed permanently in 1987.

1996: A bunch of film enthusiasts who were looking to rent an old cinema where they could show independent films found out that the old Arenberg Studio had never been demolished. The KB, which had moved on to other projects, had not carried out the conversion works in the end: for 10 years the cinema had been used to store old furniture! The KB agreed to sign a two-year short-term lease, at no charge. In just a few weeks, the cinema  was refurbished and equipped.

1997: Cinema Nova, a “cinema of urgency”, was born. Its name refers to the stars that shine very brightly for a very short time. Screenings began on 23 January.

1999: KB sells the building to Almafin. Nova obtains the renewal of its short-term lease for another two years, again at no charge.

2000: A new short-term agreement, this time for a rent of €10,000 a year, allowing Nova to continue its non-profit programming.

2003: The Vlaamse Gemeenschap (VG) buys the building. Nova obtained a lease, the duration of which was dependent on its recognition by the Kunstendecreet. The rent is maintained at €10,000 per year.

2005: While retaining ownership of the ground, the VG sold the building to Oliflora on an emphyteutic basis, and became the tenant until 2024. Nova is now a subtenant.

2017: Oliflora puts the long lease back up for sale. Real estate pressure is very strong in the area and could spell the end for Nova. The increase could be six times the rent and there is no guarantee that the site will continue to be used for cultural purposes. Supernova Coop was set up to acquire the cinema hall and rent it out to Nova ASBL at the lowest possible rent.

2018: Oliflora agreed to sell the cinema independently of the rest of the building. However, the deal came up against the legal complications surrounding the relationship between the VG, Oliflora and Nova. It was therefore agreed to delay the sale until the end of the VG’s lease, in 2024.

2020-2022: Despite this oral agreement, Oliflora sold the long lease to Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Negotiations began between Supernova and Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, who agreed in 2021 on the idea of selling the cinema on an emphyteusic basis. In 2022, an agreement was made on a price and a time period.

2023: In June, the long lease agreement was finalised. The sale transaction must be finalised before the current lease ends on 11 May 2024. If Supernova Coop succeeds in raising the money by 31 March 2024, Cinema Nova will be extended… until 2092!

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