The Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam: A Stunning Art Deco Cinema

by KathleenDuffy

The Tuschinski Theatre is an Art Deco cinema in the heart of Amsterdam. It is a lush, velvet, bejewelled tribute to the golden age of cinema!

If you go to Amsterdam you must visit the Tuschinski Theatre. It’s beauty will leave you stunned.

It was built by Abraham Icek Tuschinski, a Polish Jewish immigrant who possessed rare ambition, intelligence and fortitude.

Opening in 1921, its Art Deco interior has been restored to its original beauty whilst at the same time being modernised to incorporate a multiplex within its vast interior. However, these are in separately built parts of the cinema and do not affect the beauty of the original Art Deco cinema.

The moment you enter the foyer you are in another world, a world where a visit to the cinema once meant entering a new dimension of the imagination, where the world outside faded and dreams were king.

This is exactly was Mr Tuschinski wanted!

The Entrance to the Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam
The Entrance to the Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam

Abraham Icek Tuschinski was born in 1898 in Brzeainy, a small town near Lodz in Poland.  His father was a tailor and so, naturally, Abraham Icek also became a tailor.   But he was not satisfied with what he regarded as his limited life prospects.  He longed for greater things, and so, like generations of immigrants before and since,  he set his sights on America - the land of the free!

However, once Tuschinski arrived in Rotterdam he was impressed by the commercial opportunities of that city and so his American adventure was cancelled.  This was fortuitous for Amsterdam, but tragic for Tuschinski, as we shall see.

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Light in the Foyer of Tuschinski Theatre
Light in the Foyer of Tuschinski Theatre
K Duffy

Abraham Tuschinski was a keen observer of current trends, and in Rotterdam the cinema was a new craze.  With the force of his powerful personality and his business associates, this self-taught Jewish tailor opened four cinemas in Rotterdam in the twinkling of an architectural eye!

Tuschinski was married  - whilst taking the tour of the Tuschinski Theatre which inspired this article  I did not have my notebook so unfortunately the marriage details are sketchy. However, if I remember correctly, I believe he married in Poland and sent for his wife once he was established.  

Tuschinski, like many businessmen then and now, took a mistress - I do remember that detail - and his wife turned a blind eye.  It was accepted that the family was uppermost -  all business dealings and profits had to be kept in the family. Coming from poverty, the wider picture and the future for the family was the central concern.

Lights in the Foyer of the Tuschinski Theatre
Lights in the Foyer of the Tuschinski Theatre
K Duffy

Tuschinski, like any entrepreneur with blood in his veins, was soon looking for new opportunities.  In 1917 he moved to Amsterdam in the company of his two brothers-in-law.  He checked out the area and saw that it was good! 

In 1918, knowing exactly what he wanted, ("the best people. the best ideas and the best materials" ), he began to oversee the construction of a massive, Art Deco  cinema which would cost four million guilders.

The Auditorium of the Tuschinski Theatre
The Auditorium of the Tuschinski Theatre

According to our guide at the Tuschinski Theatre, the area in which Tuschinski decided to build his theatre was a run-down area which housed the poor and marginalised.  His business partners advised him that this would not be a good place to build a respectable theatre, nor would it attract the appropriate clientele!

But Tuschinski was a stubborn man.  He had spent days walking around the area, undecided as to where he would build his dream.  

This would be the place!  Just between the Munt tower and what is now the buzzing Rembrandt Square. No matter that it meant demolishing the homes of residents, no matter that they put up a valient fight!   So valient in fact that Tuschinski was eventually forced to pay some of them compensation. 

Once they were gone, the building began.

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The Fabulous Foyer of the Tuschinski Theatre
The Fabulous Foyer of the Tuschinski Theatre

Isn't this an amazing photograph.  I can testify that the foyer of the Tuschinski Theatre really does look as wonderful as this.

The carpet that you see is not the original - the plans for the original carpet were lost - but in 1984 the remains of the original were removed and rewoven in Morocco, using the same thread.  The colours were also identical.

This carpet is 50m long - it was flown in one piece to Amsterdam by a KLM plane and strong students from the local art school were commissioned to get it through the door!


Ceiling in the Foyer of Tuschinski Theatre
Ceiling in the Foyer of Tuschinski Theatre

The wonderful ceiling light in the foyer changes colour to represent the different times of the day.  Nowadays it is enabled by LED lights - but originally ordinary light bulbs were used and had to be replaced very regularly!

As you move up the stairs and into the main auditorium the feeling that your are entering into another world is overwhelming.


Murals in the Tuschinski Theatre
Murals in the Tuschinski Theatre

These murals pictured above were only discovered during the restoration of 1998-2002 .  Workers were scraping away at paint on the upper balcony when an eye appeared!  After careful scraping full figures appeared which had previously been covered over.

According to our guide, a contemporary relative of Tuschinski recognised female relatives of the family - apparently they had been the inspiration for the mural.

As you can see, the benches in this upper balcony are not velvet, but wood, unlike the lush velvet seating below.  Tuschinski decided that they were not comfortable enough for the public and so they were never used!  He was a very particular man...


Lights in the Foyer
Lights in the Foyer

Everywhere you look in the wonderful Tuschinski Theatre there are symbols of hope and optimism. No doubt after the First World War Europe needed a boost.

Some of the wall lamps are shaped like a chrysalis  from which a butterfly will eventually emerge.  And caterpillars, lit from within, adorn the walls. 

The whole atmosphere of this magical environment is permeated by hope for the future, by the eternal optimism of the poor immigrant who is not afraid to dream, to be ruthless,  and work hard.

Main Auditorium Balcony, Tuschinski Theatre
Main Auditorium Balcony, Tuschinski Theatre

It is quite sobering to be surrounded by such beauty, opulence and creativity only then to be told that Abraham Icek Tuschinski, who could have flourished in America,  was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp.

The Nazis could not even bear the Polish-Jewish name of his cinema and renamed it the 'Tivoli'. 


But let us be grateful for the people of Amsterdam who have brought this jewel in their crown back to its former glory.  It is a fitting tribute to the optimism and the tenacity of Tuschinski.



  • A tour of the Tuschinski Theatre - it takes place every first Sunday of the month.
  • This website is quite useful for a brief history and details of how to book a seat.
  • The magnificent photograph of the Tuschinski Theatre foyer with carpet, was made available on Wikimedia by  Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA)




Books Relating to Amsterdam, Art Deco, Etc.

Art Deco and Modernist Carpets

The design revolutions of the early 20th century were woven into the very fabric of the carpets and rugs of that era. Art Deco and Modernist Carpets, the first in-depth history,...

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Amsterdam Sketchbook (Sketchbooks S.)

The city of Amsterdam, known for its fascinating history, captivating architecture and its collection of art by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, is the subject of th...

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Avant-Garde Design: Dutch Decorative Arts 1880-1940

Dutch decortative arts of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods are much in demand throughout the world. Yet, with the exception of Gerrit Rietveld and H.P.Berlage, Dutch designe...

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Insight Guide Amsterdam (Insight Guides)

This guide includes a section detailing Amsterdam's history, seven features covering aspects of the city's life and culture, ranging from its laid-back attitude to its bicycles ...

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Updated: 05/15/2013, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 05/24/2013

teddletonmr - Hi, thanks for your comment. I absolutely agree! :)

teddletonmr on 05/24/2013

Impressive architectural design

KathleenDuffy on 05/19/2013

Hello Mike - Yes, it could qjite easily be missed. I was lucky to be there on the first Sunday of the month when they do this tour. Hope you make it! Thanks for your comment.

MikeRobbers on 05/19/2013

Very beautiful building. The experience of paying a visit there should be magnificent. You did provide an excellent presentation with your page. Certainly in my 'to-do' list when I visit Amsterdam.

KathleenDuffy on 05/16/2013

Hi Katiem2, Thanks so much for your comments - it's beautiful isn't it! :)

katiem2 on 05/16/2013

I can sense the majesty of this theaters grandeur from the images and the description you offered. Great Article.

KathleenDuffy on 05/15/2013

Hi Elias - I was so thrilled to see this theatre a couple of weeks ago when I went for a long weekend to Amsterdam. I think it was the high point of the trip. I'm glad you enjoyed my article! Thanks

EliasZanetti on 05/15/2013

It's such an amazing building that the experience of being there (the first time at least) overwhelms the experience of viewing a film. Great page, Kathleen.

KathleenDuffy on 05/15/2013

so glad you like it Mira and Tolovaj - I was lucky to be there by chance on the day they did the tour.

Mira on 05/15/2013

That auditorium looks really good :). Thanks for sharing the story and photos!

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