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The Network - 07/11/2016

 

Europa Cinemas Awards 2016 – Best Programming - Kino Europa, Zagreb, Croatia

 

Kino Europa is Zagrebs most iconic cinema. It was built in 1924-1925 by the wealthy Müller family from Zagreb with a wish to build the most beautiful, important and modern cinema in the region. After years of neglect and troubles over ownership, City of Zagreb bought the cinema and, in early 2008, the cinema management was trusted to Zagreb Film Festival with the aim of making Kino Europa the regional hub for film and film art. In 2013 Kino Europa became a protected cultural heritage site and a Croatian national treasure.

The cinema interior, its opulent stucco decorations and post-Art Nouveau classicist details are among the most magnificent in the city. The cinema premises, located at the very centre of the city, hosts the Large Hall with 500 seats in its auditorium, the Müller Hall with 41 seats, the Cinema Shop and the Cinema Bar, a popular hangout.

In 2008, when we occupied the cinema, our main intention and important task was to design a first-rate programme of contemporary, independent and art-house films from all over the world, and to regain the trust of the audience who completely lost the habit of frequenting old cinemas in the city centre. At the time, we were the only cinema focused on world and European auteur cinema, different from the existing multiplex programmes.

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Nevertheless, this was not an easy task, we had neither the films, nor the means or audience, but diligence and hard work paid off: we managed to meet our initial objectives and embarked upon a long-term strategic timeline. The results of this effort are, today, evident, in both the increased number of visitors and through media visibility and acknowledgment among the local and international public.

Our programme’s diversity and quality, and our special approach to every event and screening, as well as to specific audiences, make our strategy particularly innovative. Our motto is ‘Think about what you watch’. We want the audience to perceive the cinema as a venue that is a living and vibrant institution, a place of discussion, conversation and learning about film culture 24/7. We watch our audience, with every screening schedule we follow and analyse the attendance and reactions to the programme that we prepared for them – so while managing to show a selection of the finest world cinema throughout the year, we have also learned to search for films of specific genres, themes and countries that our audience like. We are also trying to organize encounters between audience and filmmakers, very often we invite film critics to introduce screenings, and organize special events for children and senior citizens.

In the beginning it was very difficult to offer a wide range of nationalities in our programming (25 European nationalities were represented in our 2015 programme, and almost 72% of the screenings we had were of European films), as there were not many independent films available for distribution, and if a title of this profile with any commercial potential appeared, multiplexes had the priority option to screen them. We also had to start buying films in order to keep the continuity in our programming – and this was possible because our experience in organising the Festival connected us with numerous distributors and producers. Today, we are still distributing 5-10 titles per year. After years of struggling, digitisation made things much easier. Distributors grew more likely to acquire films from diverse origins and even those with very small commercial potential. 

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Also, we have a very rich range of regional cinema that is accessible due to close relations with producers from the region, and we have a very good presence of Croatian films in the repertoire as well. Sometimes this makes it even harder to cover and present all of the good films.

Additionally, festivals and film cycles are always attracting a lot of media attention, and they represent a form of gathering, so, for us, this is always an opportunity to connect with the audience and convey the message that the cinema is very active.

We have recently started a new program called Kinolektira, where once a month we screen classic films that are restored and digitized. Also, these screenings are accompanied by an introduction given by a film critic. The first screening was sold out and followed by a huge discussion on our Facebook event page with a conclusion that screenings of classics once a month are not enough.

In March, we screened Rams at our morning screening for senior citizens and we were lucky to have the director, Grimur Hakonarson, attend and hold a Q&A. We brought him to the evening screening in our small cinema auditorium and surprised the audience with his presence at the end of the screening. We had a very spontaneous and funny Q&A which created an amazing atmosphere in the cinema.

We are proud that we have learned to listen to our audience’s needs and to respond to them. Our uncompromising programming, including the best independent and art films trained them and got them used to our line-ups. Today, the audience knows that they cannot choose wrongly with any film they see at Kino Europa.

Yet, we also face long-term challenges. First of all, we hope we will manage to renovate the building fully and to restore its old shine. This is one of the most important goals for the next four years and we have invested a lot of energy in its realisation. We have managed to do it technically, we have installed state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, but now we are left to do the complete renovation of the cinema building.

Hrvoje Laurenta, Executive Director and Selma Mehadzic, Programmer

http://www.kinoeuropa.hr/

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