The Yanggakdo cinema building was built in 1989 in a ‘brutalist’ style, and its best left to one’s imagination as to what exactly the design is based on.
The outside was renovated in 2018, but the inside remains untouched with its original decor, but a renovated thermal heating system means that it doesn’t get too chilly in winter!
Inside, there’s a massive 60,000 square meters of space, with more than 600 halls and rooms. It’s pretty easy to get lost. The largest cinema room can fit 2,000 people, with another four screening rooms with space for 600, 300, 100, and 50. The large 2,000 capacity room is also used for other performances such as comedies and theatre performances.
The 600 seater room was modernized by Koryo Tours & Studio in 2017, and the entrance hall was converted into a bar and gift shop.
The cinema is home to the opening ceremony for the Pyongyang International Film Festival (PIFF), of which Koryo Tours & Studio are official partners. During the PIFF period, it also screens various PIFF entry films, which include both foreign and domestic productions. Outside, there are stalls with food and drinks where you can sit at before or after the film.
Tickets for the films can be pretty pricey, getting up to around US $15. It is usual for Koreans to watch film during the daytime usually, but during the PIFF time films may run into late afternoon and early evening time.
When PIFF is not running, Koreans can view approved foreign films here for US $1, and foreigners can also enter the cinema for a screening of ‘Comrade Kim Goes Flying’ – a joint DPRK-Belgian-UK production co-directed by Koryo Tours & Studio founder Nick Bonner.
It’s home to various other events when the space is required, including a special performance in 2019 by Joss Stone who performed to 60 tourists, local guides and British embassy staff. She also learnt the famous Korean Arirang song which she performed along with her own songs.
Plans for the future include hosting the first ever Children’s Film Festival in the DPRK.