“Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, Lithuania inherited the biggest network of cinemas in the Baltic states that are currently deteriorating at a rapid pace, now it is the smallest one,” the cinema historian Dr. Lina Kaminskaitė, who, together with her colleagues, is now researching the cinema culture in the remote areas of Lithuania, says. The installation “The Projection Booth. Cinemas in Regions” constitutes the first stage of the research and encourages viewers to take a look at the old cinema buildings in various Lithuanian towns and settlements. “Recent considerations of pandemic influence towards cinemas show the biggest challenge to survive for cinemas in remote areas,” continues L. Kaminskaite
If you look through special binoculars installed in the window of the cinema and media space Planeta in Vilnius, you will see the photographs of sixteen cinemas situated in various regions of Lithuania. You will learn about their architectural style, year of their construction, and their present-day purpose. With this project, the media education and research center Meno Avilys seek to calculate and make an inventory of the cinemas surviving in various towns and settlements of the country. According to the organizers, today, more than ever before, it is extremely important to pay attention to their decreasing number and condition to highlight their cultural and architectural heritage.
“While analyzing the archival material, we discovered the document from 1988 that listed 260 film screening venues functioning in Lithuania at that time. Approximately 160 of them were cinemas, the absolute majority of which, i.e., around 140, were scattered in the regions of Lithuania and were not situated in Vilnius or Kaunas. Today, out of that number, we’ve managed to discover only sixteen cinema buildings constructed in the Soviet times that have not been significantly modified in terms of their original architecture, and we’ve decided to document them,” L. Kaminskaite explains.
Judging from the photographs made last autumn by the photographer Simonas Linkevicius (Simas Lin), the following five cinemas were functioning according to their primary film screening purpose: Spindulys in Marijampole, Dainava in Alytus, Minija in Gargzdai, Virinta in Alanta, and Garsas in Panevezys. The latter is scheduled to be demolished. In the buildings of the other cinemas secondhand furniture shops, stores, a veterinary clinic, a casino, day and youth centers, and a museum were established. Some of them are neglected and unused or are being renovated. The facades and interiors of these buildings captured in the documentary photos are reminiscent of paused film frames. Unscripted signs of present-day life supplement the feeling of nostalgia palpable in the pictures.
The installation organizers suggest these cinemas as an important link in film culture and infrastructure. All these buildings speak of technological or ideological changes and the changes in the locations where they are situated and the local communities. That is why representatives of Meno Avilys encourage people to make a contribution to the research by sharing with the organizers their memories, photos, or other artifacts from the cinemas in the regions of Lithuania. Meanwhile, the installation in the window of Planeta will be open twenty-four hours a day, and viewers will be able to visit it until the end of May.
Meno Avilys is a non-governmental organization operating independently in the sphere of film and audiovisual media, established in 2005 by like-minded people. The center takes care of media education and cinema culture, organizes screenings of unconventional films, promotes discussions and informal conversations. Helps filmmakers develop and create their debut works. Meno Avilys protects and highlights the audiovisual heritage, promotes gender equality in the film industry through various conducted research, and offers space for less-heard voices in the area of cinema culture.