Memling Cinema, Bruges.

When most people go abroad the first thing they search for is restaurants, supermarkets, museums etc.


Well, I look for abandoned and closed down cinemas.

Bruges was no exception.

I’d started hunting down old cinemas in Bruges a couple of weeks before I even got there.

There was just one.

The Memling Cinema.

In 1928 the Memling cinema opened in beautiful Gothic style building that , at the time of opening, was called the Hollywood Cinema.

This name lasted a year before the cinema was renamed The Crosly Palace.

A queue for a movie at the Memling.

In 1945 another name changed happened and this time the cinema was renamed as just The Palace.

The poster for Peter O’Toole’s Murphy’s War (Murphy in Europe) dates this photo as 1971.

The Memling finally got it’s name in 1953 when it was named after the German artist Hans Memling, who lived in Bruges from around 1465.

Judging by the Ford Capri, this photo was taken some time in the late 70’s or early 80’s.
That’s a poster for The Untouchables in the background so that would date this photo as 1987.

Today the building is in use as youth hostel, a bar and a restaurant.

The old lobby of the cinema has a bar and some pool tables in it and there are dormitory rooms upstairs.

I don’t know when the Memling cinema closed but around the pillars of the walls are pasted some old front of house still cards.

These cards would have been displayed in the lobby of the cinema to advertise upcoming movies and the current movie that was being shown.

While some of the lobby cards are from movies in the 60’s and 70’s there are cards from such movies as Empire Strikes Back and Meatballs from the 80’s.

I found it odd to find myself in a bar, in Belgium, next to a poster for the 1970’s movie based on the British TV show The Sweeney.

There are no newer cards on the walls after the mid 80’s so at a guess I’d say the cinema closed in the early to mid 90’s. At the front of the post in the photo below is a still from the 1990 Jim Belushi Movie The Palermo Connection which was the latest movie still I could find.

The earliest I can find mention of the building being a youth hostel on the internet is from 2011 but I know the hostel opened many years before that.

Lobby cards pasted to posts.

I spoke to the manager and asked her about the history of the building.

I was told that the stage was hidden by a wall at the back and the seats of the auditorium were still in place and were right above our heads.

She led me to a locked door, opened it and I was presented with this….

The manager asked me to ignore the piles of stuff being stored in the room but to look at the back.

The stage is still in place and the screen is still in perfect, undamaged condition. The curtains can be seen at the back, one half open and one fully closed.

Above my head was the auditorium which still has the seating in place. I’m told they are the old red folding type seats and each one has an ashtray in the arm.

I asked the manager why the auditorium was left like this and I was told that she would love to do something with the area. Charlie Rockets regularly has live music and the stage would be perfect to use for larger crowds. The seating would also get some use too.

Unfortunately there is a preservation order on the building so Charlie Rockets is powerless to use, change or update the auditorium area in any way.

In the entrance to the hostel is a 1950’s Bauer U2 projector that has been bought down from the projection booth.

These things are huge and heavy so it must have been dismantled before it could be placed on display.

I guess due to its weight it might actually have just fallen through the floor above.

1950’s print ad for the Bauer U2 projector.
The basement of the building leading to the toilets. Look at that flooring!

If you ever find yourself in Bruges I would recommend a visit to Charlie Rockets.

You might not be able to see a movie or the sit in old cinema seats but you can get a good beer at the bar and the food is reasonably priced and pretty tasty.

the staff are friendly and the manager was great for letting me know more about the building and letting me see the stage area.

Also, I’d highly recommend the Lasagne.


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