Hidden Belgrade (51): Forgotten Summer Stages

Given that Belgrade is blessed by nice weather from April to November, it is no wonder that entrepreneurs and city planners of yore wanted to capitalise on this by building open-air cinema and theatre stages as attractions. Unfortunately, due to the lack of creativity and funds, most of them are now derelict or otherwise out of bounds for the crowds, although every once in a while there are attempts to revive them, like the summer stages at Gardoš and Olimp, or the amazing Film Street guerrilla cinema project. The current ban on indoor performances caused by COVID-19 pandemic, would ideally revive these wonderful places and allow Belgraders to once again enjoy these dramatic places Cinema-Paradiso style under warm starry nights.

Topčider Stage

Designed by Rajko Tatić (one of the architects of Sajmište) and built in 1947 on the site of an old quarry below Senjak, Topčider summer stage is now part of Topčiderska Noć restaurant, but has been unused since 1970s (apart from starring in Bajaga’s wonderful Buđenje Ranog Proleća video).

Army Hall

Belgrade’s Army Hall was built in 1930s and was meant to serve as a cultural centre for the Army of Kingdom of Yugoslavia and related societies which united those around Yugoslavia interested in anything from fencing to hunting. Its muscular modernist design was topped off not only with a somewhat dramatic clock tower (which still chimes), but also by a roof garden which used to work as a restaurant and cinema, until a few decades ago. My parents often told me of the nights they spent there watching movies and while Trg Republike was buzzing just below them. The roof was recently renovated and has until recently featured something which looked like projection screen, but I have no idea if it has been used for performances in the past few years.

Rooftop stage in Balkanska

A few years ago, Belgrade history amateur internet was abuzz with photos of a dramatic derelict rooftop stage, which is located in Balkanska, in the building which used to house 20th October cinema (privatised, closed and destroyed after 2008). It is rumoured that the stage belonged to a pre-WWII student society (some even claim it operated before WWI) and that the AKUD Krsmanović also used it for concerts after WWII. However, the fact that the building that houses it is residential and apparently in restitution it is unlikely that we will get to enjoy its dramatic view over the Sava any time soon.

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