This was supposed to be a sort of film review, but circumstances took it elsewhere. I recently went to a Romanian cinema, one of the last of its kind still standing. It’s called Europa, and is owned by Romania Film. It is very close to my office yet I rarely go there, I usually prefer multiplexes, like many other Romanians. Perhaps I should try this boulevard cinema more often; nowadays when 3D and 4K cinema is becoming something of a norm, maybe we should try, at least for the sake of diversity, the old school cinema that was the only option not so long ago.
I wanted to watch the Berlinale – winner movie Poziţia copilului/Child’s Pose, and it was screening at this cinema- one of the last places in Bucharest where I could watch this movie, I suppose. A friend told me the cinema is decent, but that the screen is small so I should take one of the front seats and definitely wear my glasses. The screening started at 17,00 and the ticket was RON 7 – cheaper than any discounted ticket at any of the fancy cinemas in shopping malls. The lady who was selling tickets didn’t have change for a RON 50 bill- she showed me everything she had – only three bills of RON 5, and it was almost the end of the day. That means she had sold two full tickets, or three tickets at the matinee. Not too good. She was a nice lady, she had an embroidery frame and I imagine this is how she manages the long, probably empty days there. I had to go to a nearby shop and change the RON 50 bill.
When the movie started, there were only two more people in the cinema hall, plus a sort of a homeless man who I assume was there to take a nap.
The cinema hall looked decent, clean, chairs were a bit squeaky but comfortable overall. The screen, indeed a bit smaller than what I was used to, but nothing that would have made me regret I came. As I said, this was supposed to be a sort of film review, and while I enjoyed the film and I think it is very true to reality and sincere, which must be hard to accomplish, the story of that cinema moved me more. For the first minutes of the movie I felt I was back in time – first, the old cinema experience, then, the Romanian film, with long shots, lack of soundtrack. It was something else and very refreshing. Until at some point, when the action was spiking, the film was suddenly interrupted. It was not the end, and the lights were still off in the hall. We waited for some minutes, and nothing happened. Finally I went out to let someone know what had happened. All three employees of the cinema hall, the lady selling tickets, the 50-year old technical guy and another lady were in front of the cinema, on the sidewalk. When alerted, they came right away and the tech guy had to re-start the CD/DVD. I imagine they have a CD/DVD player of some sort, and a projector. And to our amusement, as the guy didn’t know the minute when the film was interrupted, he has to fast forward throughout the entire film to reach the point we were so interested in. Unfortunately he missed it by a couple of seconds, during which something important happened, so I’ll never really know how the film ended. Being a European movie, it’s anyway not very clear sometimes what the end is, and as it turns out, there was only 1 minute left from the movie, and in the end there was crying. I decided to interpret it was crying out of happiness and to label the day ‘an encounter with the reality of Romanian cinema’. I was not upset by what happened, I found it funny and sad at the same time, people were attentive and did the best they could, I would not avoid that cinema in the future. But I was wondering why isn’t the owner – the state – doing anything to turn these cinemas into places where people actually want to go? It doesn’t matter if they have only one hall and are located on a boulevard, and not in a shopping mall. It can still work- look at Cinema Pro, in a similar situation.
Why not find an investor, give the cinema into concession agreement for a certain period, ask them to bring quality equipments, invest in marketing, get good contracts for new movies, and then get a share of the revenues. I’m sure that as long as investors don’t have to revamp the halls – and even if they had to – they’d still be interested, and for the state it would still be more than it gets now. Sure, it must not be an easy business, I’ve seen empty halls on Saturday at noon in large multiplexes in shopping malls, too, but what is easy these days? Why not revamp the idea of having neighborhood cinemas? Find content niches, create promotions, and bring people to cinemas – this will help Romanian cinematography too, and maybe make people a bit happier.
By Corina Chirileasa, [email protected]