News / The Network


The Network - 09/11/2007


Elvire Popesco Cinema, French Institute in Bucharest


On the occasion of the Network's 12th Annual Conference, which is being held in Bucharest from 15 to 18 November, we put 3 questions to Laurentiu Bratan, programmer for the Elvire Popesco cinema, a network member cinema managed by the French Institute in Bucharest.


What is the position of the Elvire Popesco cinema in relation to other Bucharest cinemas?
The Elvire Popesco cinema is a real film theatre, although it occupies something of a special position, being managed and programmed by the Institut français (French Institute) in Bucharest. This means that it has to collaborate with other cinemas in the capital, particularly those which are members of Europa Cinemas. We also work together with Romanian organisations, notably the Filmmakers Union, România Film (the network which manages a large proportion of Romanian cinemas) and the National Film Archives.
Between 2001 and 2004, it was the most dynamic cinema in Bucharest in terms of its programming. No other cinema in the city showed as many films d'auteurs and films that had featured at the major international festivals - films that it is difficult for the Romanian public to gain access to. We organised festivals and cycles, not only for French and European films, but also for those originating from Africa and Asia, which clearly helped to build up the reputation of the cinema, which is regarded as an exceptional venue by film enthusiasts. In 2005-2006 we decided to focus once again on French films. However, audience numbers almost halved in the space of two years.
Today, the French Embassy and the Institut français are once again moving towards a policy of openness to other cultural centres in Bucharest and to programming that puts the quality of films ahead of their country of origin and, above all, ahead of diversity and the programming of unreleased works. In line with this approach, we organise and host film festivals and cycles proposed by our partners, including events dedicated to young Romanian filmmakers, such as the "Carte blanche à..." series, in which a young Romanian filmmaker is invited to present his latest work and two French films that made a particular impression on him.
What projection formats do you use?
We mainly project in 35 mm, and sometimes in 16 mm - the Elvire Popesco cinema is the only theatre in Bucharest that is still equipped with a 16 mm projector! We also use a video projector to project DVDs and hire a Beta device when we need one, which is quite often the case during festivals.
What do you think about the Romanian exhibition sector?
There are very few cinemas in Bucharest. This is not only a problem for distributors, but also for organisations (especially NGOs) that want to arrange festivals. Unfortunately, cinema still occupies a marginal position compared to the other performing arts. Film enthusiasts watch films on DVD or pirate versions and are not really in the habit of going out to see a film.
The recent successes achieved by Romanian cinema demonstrate that the production sector has developed strongly. Distribution and exhibition are suffering, however. Independent cinemas are dying and nothing leads me to believe that the situation will improve over the next 2 or 3 years.
The city has 3 multiplexes, comprising around fifteen screens in total. These compensate to some extent for the disappearance of traditional theatres, but they only show American films, and this perhaps explains the change in taste that we are seeing among the public.
The French Institute in Bucharest presents an exhibition of Romanian cinemas, by Stephan Zaubitzer
The French Institute in Bucharest will shortly show an exhibition - under the patronage of the French Ambassador to Romania Mr Henri Paul - of Romanian cinemas taken by Stephan Zaubitzer. 
In recent years, Stephan Zaubitzer, who has been a photographer since 1991, has taken an interest in film theatres right across the globe. In 2004, he received an award from World Press Photo for his photographs of open-air cinemas in Ouagadougou. Following a request from Europa Cinemas, he has just completed a tour of Romania, during which he photographed many of the country's cinemas.
Europa Cinemas would like to thank the Cooperation and Cultural Counsellor Mr Henri Lebreton, the Cultural Attache Mr Didier Montagné, the Audiovisual Project Officer Miss Justine Potier, and Mr Laurentiu Bratan, programmer of the Elvire Popesco cinema, for their invaluable assistance with the organisation of this exhibition and of the Conference.