Before Ciné Rex : period 1900 - 1935
On De Keyserlei 15, a
business with the name Palais Indien was taken over around the end of 1897 by
the "Stè Anme pour l'Explotation du Café Universel" and this was
published in the Belgian State courier of 05/01/1898.
This business was hired out to the French company Gaumont a few years later and renamed Théatre Gaumont; the programmation was mainly films by this French company.
Gaumont also projected 'talking movies', a combination of movies with a grammophoneplayer.
After the contract was finished The Café Universal - pub with orchestra - took the place of Gaumont and named the auditorium LeopoldPaleis.
In 1920 the auditorium was sold to the Belgian Socialist Party and became a workers pub for the next 15 years.
A new big cinema : period 1935 - 1945
In 1935 a company , Paul Doisy president in charge, bought the
auditorium and everything was rebuild according to a design by the
Belgian architect Leon Stijnen who was inspired by the big movie palaces in
The name of the auditorium changed once more and remained : Ciné Rex.
In 1941 the company took the name of "S.A. Rexciné", this name remained until the bankruptcy in 1993.
In the mean while a gingerbread salesman, Georges Heylen, lended money to a friend who could'n repay this debt and agreed with Heylen to give in exchange a quantity of stock in Ciné Rex.
Heylen became a member of the board of directors of SA Rexciné and later on became managing director through his marriage with the daughter of the biggest stockholder in the company.
With the start of WW II things became difficult for Ciné Rex, the Germans took over the biggest cinema chain in Belgium "Bruciné"and the managing director Alfred Greisen demanded Ciné Pathé, changed the name in Eldorado and all the German movies played first in this cinema.
Only German movies were on the program with stars like Marikka Rökk and Johannes Heesters, the first color movies like Baron von Münchausen, Die goldene stad and Immensee were shown in Ciné Pathé while the other cinema's couldn't find hardly any movies to shown.
After the liberation of Antwerp on 4 september 1944 the first American and British movies in five years time arrived very slowly and to forget the constant danger of bombardment with German V1 and V2's the cinema was very popular again.
On 16 december 1944 Ciné Rex played a movie about the life of Buffalo Bill, Heylen was leading a meeting of the board in the conferenceroom when a V2 landed on the auditorium just as the charge was blown in the movie.
The toll was high : 296 soldiers and 271 civilians lost their lives and many casualties including Georges Heylen who was more dead than alive when found in the remains of the cinema.
As a result of this disaster the mayor of Antwerp Camiel Huysmans forbid all shows in theater and cinema until the end of the bombardments in march1945.
Photo : What remains after the impact of a V2 rocket
As a phoenix from its ashes : period 1947 - 1953
Photo : The Lost Weekend, first movie shown in the rebuild Rex - 1947
After Heylen recovered from his injuries, plans for rebuilding of Ciné Rex
In the spring of 1947 a complete new Ciné Rex, 100 % following the original design by Stijnen, opened its doors for the public.
But the situation in Antwerp has changed, the're to many cinema's and Heylen has to settle for playing parallel with Cine Capitole..
Ciné Rex restarts with The Lost Weekend by Billy Wilder with Ray Milland and Heylen succeeds in getting the distributors on his side with the only thing they understand : he makes more money with the same movie.
Soon Ciné Rex plays his own programmation and Heylen starts with building his empire on the bank of the river Scheld : this was the start of the so called Rex - concern..
But with the liberation a new and tough competitor made the crossing across the atlantic : television..
Television became more and more popular en people stayed home instead of going to the cinema until 20th Century Fox gave the audience what television couldn't: a very big picture of a superior quality with a 4 track magnetic stereo system.
Ciné Rex was the first cinema in Antwerp that installed new material for CinemaScope : a new projection box with 3 BauerB12 projectors and a audio system by Klangfilm gave the Antwerp audience quality.
The Robe had his premiere, House Of Wax made Ciné Rex the first with 3D movies in Antwerp, Vistavision films on plain 35mm like The ManWho Knew To Much and The Ten Commandments stood for a full house.
Photo : Bauer B12 - 35 mm projector 1951 - 1958 - + 900 fabricated
Ciné Rex as flagship : period 1953 - 1970
While the Rex - Concern becomes bigger and bigger, Ciné Rex became
it's flagship and symbol for the concern.
This growth started in the 50's but once in a while things didn't go like Heylen wanted..
While The Bridge On The River Kwai played for a full house in Ciné Rex , Columbia wasn't pleased and demanded from Heylen a bigger cut from the profits, this Heylen refused.
Columbia pulled the movie back and booked it in a small cinema on De Keyserlei (Regina) where the movie played for a full house for eight months,this is not all to difficult, Regina had 145 seats while Ciné Rex had 1066 seats ...
Ciné Rex had it's golden years in this period and the Rex -Concern bought cinema by cinema and some competitors thought that the golden years where gone by and quit the business, cinema's like Colloseum, Roxy, Empire and Anvers Palace closed their doors.
In this period a lot of famous movie stars visited Antwerp and attended premiers of their movies in Ciné Rex, stars like Gregory Peck, Sofia Loren, Jean - Paul Belmondo, Jean Mansfield ... the list is to long to put here..
Photo : Ciné Rex in the fifties
Photo : Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation - 1962
On to the end : period 1970 - 1993
Heylen had now a monopoly in the center of Antwerp and Ciné Rex played all
the big movies until in 1972 a conflict erupted with the American
distributors, and the big movie palace played cheap German movies
(Repherbahnmovies) and other movies like Death In A Red Jaguar, while on the
other side of the street The Godfather was playing in the fist multiplex in
In 1974 Ciné Rex was refurbished and the audio system replaced with a Siemens ampiflier.
Later on a Dolby CP50 for the Dolby sound system followed and in 1987 Dolby SR.
With a visit by Village People for the premiere of Can't Stop The Music almost 10.000 people where waiting outside the cinema to catch a glimp of the hot disco act.
On 16/11/1979 a small cinema with backscreen projection and 91 seats was opened in the basement: Rex - Club.
With A Passage to India the 50th jubilee of Ciné Rex was celebrated in 1985, it would be one of the last big events in this cinema.
After 1985 the Rex - Concern began to decline and no new equipment was installed and when in 1993 the movie Daens premiered the empire of George Heylen was almost finished.
On 03/09/1993 at 11h45 Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone was playing, when the bankrupt is declared and Ciné Rex closes it's doors after 57 years.
Photo : Sneakers - 1992
Photo : Staff protesting after the bankruptcy is declared
The end of Ciné Rex : period 1993 - 1995
After the bankruptcy all the equipment of the cinema's is up for auction and
the cinema is the place where the sale is held.
In 1995 the cinema is sold to EPMC together with the cinema's Metro,Ambassades and Odeon..
When Georges Heylen dies on 01/11/1995 in Herentals the demolishers are ready and early 1996 Ciné Rex has vanished.
On the site stands now UGC Antwerp ( was Gaumont Antwerp1997 - 2000).