October 1915. Wartime in occupied Antwerp. At the central square in front of the train station (currently Koningin Astridplein), ‘Cine Zoologie’ opened its doors. A few months earlier, the board of the Antwerp Royal Society for Zoology (the association behind the zoo) had decided to start organizing film screenings.
The lavishly decorated banquet hall was first used for concerts, balls, and exhibitions. Now it received a new purpose.
At a time when both the number of animals and that of subscribers were rapidly dwindling because of the war, the board wanted ‘to ward off the boredom that affects the people living here’.
Due to its connection to the highly regarded zoo, the well-organized film and concert evenings, and the outstanding cinema orchestra, Cine Zoologie soon became one of the most respected cinemas in the area. The income from the cinema helped the zoo to get through the difficult years of the First World War.
The cinema also flourished after the war. In 1930, it successfully made the conversion to sound film. In the middle of the thirties, the venue became less and less popular. The competition in the neighbourhood had increased considerably. The management decided to no longer operate a cinema at the banquet hall.
In 1960, the banquet hall was demolished and replaced by the Queen Elisabeth Hall. At the end of 2016, the third concert hall opened at that location, which is also called Queen Elisabeth Hall, as part of the new Elisabeth Center Antwerp. The concert and congress center can look back on a rich history.