Palads: Preserve the pastels or pull them down?

It is now up to the politicians to decide the fate of Copenhagen’s oldest cinema

Palads Teatret, which is located at the Axeltorv square in Copenhagen, has held a very special place in many Copenhageners’ hearts for years.

So many of them might be concerned to discover there are three proposals on the table to redevelop the beloved cinema, and all three involve knocking its walls down.

The time to make wholesale changes has come, Asger Flygare Bech-Thomsen, the CEO at Nordisk Film Cinemas, told CPH POST.

Previously efforts in recent years to renovate the interior – costing tens of millions of Danish kroner – have failed to resurrect its standing with customers, who rate Palads lowly compared to Nordisk Film’s other 20 cinemas in Denmark.

A cinema without guests
When the cinema was built in 1912 it became Scandinavia’s largest entertainment centre.

But it was not until its iconic pastel-coloured coat was added in 1989 by the painter and sculptor Poul Gernes that the building became the attraction it is considered today.

Inside is a different story, contends Bech-Thomsen.

While the cinema market has grown in Denmark over the past 20 years, Palads has lost nearly half a million annual visitors.

Consequently, the cinema could be forced to close in the long term.

“Our intention is to develop Palads while respecting the aspects that many people love about it – hence our pursuit of a compromise,” Bech-Thomsen explained.

A new purpose for Palads
Last year Nordisk developed three different sketch proposals in dialogue with the cinema’s guests and Copenhagen’s residents: ‘Classic Palads’, ‘Modern Palads’ and ‘Green Palads’.

For the development of ‘Classic Palads’ Nordisk Film is cooperating with the Poul Gernes Foundation, co-founded by Poul Gernes, to ensure that the artwork follows the painter’s intentions.

The first two proposals would reproduce large parts of the colourful facade, but all three would require the building to be taken down in order to develop ten cinema screens underground.

All three scenarios envisage a 16-floor building, of which six will be below ground. The plans include provisions for modern cinema halls, public-orientated services, business and culture facilities, leisure areas, and parking for cars and bicycles.

“We acknowledge that Palads holds a special place in the hearts of many Copenhageners. However, opinions differ, and it’s not always the majority that speaks the loudest,” Bech-Thomsen emphasised.

Copenhageners’ fight for preservation
A Facebook group, ‘Bevar Palads’ (preserve Palads), opposes Nordisk Film’s plans and so far over 14,000 people have signed its petition calling for alternative plans that preserve the famous pastel walls, or save the building altogether. Bevar Palads, which has also organised a poster campaign, hopes Nordisk Film will instead sell the building so that it can be turned into something completely different.

“Palads Teatret can really be described as a trademark of Copenhagen. It lights up the city and everyone who grew up here has a special relationship with the cinema,” Amalie Strømberg Loft, the founder of the Facebook page, told CPH POST

“Our hope is that Nordisk Film listens to the public voice and acknowledges that destroying Palads would make the people of Copenhagen so sad.”

Alternative uses for the building
According to Loft, there have been discussions about moving Copenhagen’s main library in Krystalgade to the building. Other suggestions would be turning the cinema into a children’s library, a Copenhagen branch of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, or into a nightlife centre.

Nordisk’s CEO points out that a significant amount of money would likely be required to make the building suitable for other purposes, and that annual operating costs would reach a double-digit million figure.

This would pose a significant financial burden to the citizens of Copenhagen, claims Bech-Thomsen.

Furthermore, there would be no guarantee that a new owner would wish to preserve the building.

Final decision most likely announced this month
The material for an initial statement was handed over to Copenhagen Municipality’s Technical and Environmental Committee (TMU) shortly before Easter.

Most likely within this month, the committee will decide whether to proceed with one of Nordisk’s sketch proposals or whether the administration should draw up a preservation plan. Either way, the committee will pay close attention to climate-friendly construction and preserving the area’s uniqueness.

According to the 2019 Kommuneplan, the allowed building height in the area around Axeltorv street is only 24 metres. Nordisk however wishes to construct a building with a height of up to 40 metres. Therefore, an addendum to the town plan would be required to change the permitted height.