Utrecht is bursting with eye-catching buildings, many of which you probably bike past but don’t know much about. The former Olympia cinema at Amsterdamsestraatweg is one of them.
By Martine Bakker
The coronavirus measures have put an end to us sitting together in, say, the Louis Hartlooper cinema complex, never mind a porn cinema. Although to be honest, they’ve almost died out since the invention of the video recorder, and certainly since the internet.
You used to hire blue movies in a video shop, where the kinky VHS cassettes were stashed away in the darkest, furthest corner in the ‘adult’ section. But before video shops, we had what were euphemistically referred to as ‘adult movie theatres’, where over-18s could go to watch films with titles like Saucy Underwear. This particular film was screened in the Olympia cinema at Amsterdamsestraatweg 350 in the 1980s. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save the cinema from closure – it finally shut its doors in 1984 due to a lack of visitors.
When it opened in 1927, Olympia was a regular local cinema showing feature films and Polygon newsreels. It was an architectural icon in the district: a huge, smart building on a square, with a brick façade flowing smoothly round two corners. The prominent, sloping slate roof and overhanging eaves served to emphasise the building’s curves. The two upper floors were for housing, and the movie theatre was in the low-rise section on the courtyard.
The entrance to the Olympia was on the square, and around the corner on Straatweg there was a billiard bar. This has been a shop for many years. The renovated cinema foyer and the theatre itself are currently empty. The elegant, wooden blinds, that protruded above the windows of the cinema and the bar like a quadruple ruffle, were concealed behind sheets of plastic and huge windows were fitted on the street side. The five narrow, upright windows that subtly adorned both of the corners also disappeared.
This former cinema is still an eyecatcher due to the strange, cylindrical edifice poking out of the roof, topped with a jaunty little tower. It was probably a nod by the architect Frits Peutz to the adjacent water tower, which sports a similar ‘hat’.
Back to Olympia. It first showed karate films, but soon switched to the erotic genre, like the Palace on Vredenburg. Both cinemas have now vanished. If you fancy watching porn together on Amsterdamsestraatweg post-lockdown, try Eroshop Davy’s Cinema at number 197. In its own words, it offers a good atmosphere and free coffee and hot chocolate, so maybe it still has something of the local cinema feel.