Amsterdam culture guide for expatriates
Film buffs are in for a treat in Amsterdam as both mainstream, popular American and British movies and more independent, artsy movies play every week. Unlike some other European countries, language is not usually a problem for the non-Dutch speaker because movies are often shown in English with Dutch subtitles. Some children’s movies are dubbed into Dutch and this will be indicated with ‘NL’ after the title of the movie, while the English version of a children’s movie (if it exists) will be indicated by ‘OV’ after the title (which means “Original Voices”).
Of course anything with an original soundtrack in any other language (including Dutch don’t forget) will be a problem unless you speak that language. Some of the independent theaters that are popular with international audiences will use English subtitles. The more obscure a movie is, the less likely it is that there will be Dutch subtitles and, as a result, they will default to English.
The largest cinema chain is called Pathé. There is usually some delay in showing blockbusters compared to their release in the US and in other parts of Europe.
Ticket prices are approximately €8 for adults at most of the Pathé cinemas, with the exception of the Pathé Tuschinksi which is regarded as a premium level cinema (and it is beautiful!). Tickets for the Pathé Tuschinski start from €11.50 and go up to €25 for special seating including free drinks and snacks.
Tickets can be purchased over the Internet. Monthly passes (known as “Pathé Unlimited”) may be purchased and are valid for all sessions except Friday and Saturday evenings. The monthly passes cost €18 per person for adults. Alcohol is available at cinemas to persons over 16 and may be taken in to the movie screening.
The Pathé cinemas in the Amsterdam region are:
- De Munt – Vijzelstraat 15 – this is a complex of 12 cinemas.
- Tuschinksi – Reguliersbreestraat 26-34, just around the corner from De Munt – this is a single very large cinema built in 1922 which retains all the original architectural features.
- ArenA – ArenA boulevard 600, adjacent to the Bijlmer Arena (home of the Ajax Soccer Team) and near Bijlmer train and metro station. This is the only cinema located in the suburban area adjacent to Amsterdam. It is the largest cinema complex in the Netherlands, and includes an Imax cinema in addition to many regular cinemas.
Independent theaters include:
- Cinecenter, Lijnbaansgracht 236, http://www.cinecenter.nl/
- Cinema de Balie, Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 10, http://www.debalie.nl/
- De Uitkijk, Prinsengracht 452, http://www.uitkijk.nl/
- Filmmuseum Cinerama, Marnixstraat 400-402, http://www.filmmuseum.nl/
- Ketelhuis, Haarlemmerweg 8 – 10, http://www.ketelhuis.nl/
- Kriterion, Roeterstraat 170
- Melkweg Cinema, Lijnbaansgracht 234a, http://www.melkweg.nl
- Rialto, Ceintuurbaan 338
Apart from the “Pathé Unlimited” card, there is an alternative called Cineville, which costs €18 per month, and offers card holders unlimited access to 13 movie theatres with a love for quality films.
Movie ratings system/censorship
These are the classifications provided by the Dutch Kijkwijzer:
- AL Suitable for all ages
- 6 Suitable for children over 6
- 9 Suitable for children over 9
- 12 Suitable for children over 12
- 16 Restricted to people over 16 only
Note that the 16 rating means that no one under 16 will be admitted to the movie, there are no actual restrictions with the other classifications.
There is also an “18” classification but this does not generally apply to mainstream movies, and is restricted to persons over 18 only.
Note that, as in some other European countries, nudity and bad language are not considered especially shocking and may occur in movies rated 12 or even 9. This is also true for television shows.
Almost all DVDs are available with original sound track and Dutch or English subtitles. The information about language can be found on the rear of the DVD box. Most major films, as well as American and UK television shows, are available on DVD. A range of films is also available on Blu-ray discs. Prices start from €1, but typically a new release movie will cost around €20.
There are many places to purchase DVDs including the Free Record Shop chain of stores, http://www.freerecordshop.com.
Also try local markets, such as the Albert Cuyp Market (http://www.albertcuypmarkt.com/.)
A wider range of DVDs may obtained from Fame, Kalverstraat 2-4, http://www.fame.nl/ Tel: 020-638 25 25.
There are also stores that specialise in English DVDs such as Concerto, Utrechtsestraat 52-60. This store has many UK released DVDs of cult movies and television shows that may be hard to find in the Netherlands. http://www.concerto.nl/, Tel: 020 – 6235228
The Netherlands is in DVD Region 2, so you will require a player that can play back discs for this region.
Rumor has it that one of the most prolific accounts of Amsterdam’s drug policy originated in a DVD rental store. Pulp Fiction’s infamous ‘So tell me again about the hash bars…’ exchange was supposedly penned by Quentin Tarantino while he worked in the Cult Videotheek on the Amstel. Of course other versions of this story claim that Tarantino left the city owing the small store in the region of €120 in unpaid rentals. Either way Cult Videotheek has, rightly or wrongly, earned a place in the director’s biography. It has one of the widest ranges of alternative and foreign movies in the city, and a special atmosphere to boot.
1011 PW Amsterdam
020 – 622 78 43
1015 LX Amsterdam
T: 020 6248283
Videotheek Centrum Haarlemmerdijk
Haarlemmerdijk 127, 1013 KE Amsterdam
Movie Centre has branches at:
F. Bolstraat 32
1072 LK Amsterdam
Tel. 020 6790576
1054 HC Amsterdam
Tel. 020 4120573
1011 NH Amsterdam
Tel. 020 4213259
Opera, Theater, and Ballet
Contrary to what one might expect, Amsterdam does not have a very strong tradition of English language theater. It is hard to say why, but apparently a massive resurgence in interest in Dutch theater in the twentieth century led to a decline in the number of foreign language performances. However, the arts are alive and well in Amsterdam and many top quality productions, ensembles and troupes pass through this port every month.
Main theaters and Venues
Carré – Amstel 115- http://www.theatercarre.nl/EN/home Presents musicals and shows occasionally including shows from the West End and Broadway.
Het Muziektheater – Amstel 3- (The Amsterdam Music Theater) also locally known as the Stopera (Stadhuis and Opera combined) – is the place for opera and ballet. Watch out for the free Wednesday afternoon lunch time concerts.
Het Concertgebouw – Concertgebouwplein 10- http://www.concertgebouw.nl/en is home to the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra and hosts orchestras and acts from around the world
Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ – Piet Heinkade 1 is worth a visit just to see the building. This is one of Amsterdam’s newest venues and describes itself as ‘Concert Hall of the 21st Century’. The hall aims to bring a slightly edgier and more modern season programme than the Concertgebouw but can at times fall into the ‘obscure is good’ trap. But if there’s one musical genre Amsterdam has truly made its own, it’s jazz and the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ has jazz aplenty. Indeed every Tuesday night you can come and listen to workshops and improv sessions for free.
Stadschouwburg Amsterdam – Leidseplein 26- http://www.stadsschouwburgamsterdam.nl presents a diverse programme of dance, theater and workshops, though rarely in English.
All of the venues mentioned above sell out fast particularly at weekends. It is a good idea to plan ahead and look for tickets as soon as they become available. Of course, for some of the smaller week night performances booking a few days in advance should suffice. If you suddenly find yourself with a free evening consult Last Minute Tickets to see what they have on offer http://www.lastminuteticketshop.nl/.
- Tthe popular Dutch-language website http://www.agenda.nl is full of information on what’s on all over the country and they also have a print edition that you can find at cinemas, theaters and cafes all over the city.