The lost battle for culture (Story of cinema Udarnik)

Kino Udarnik was a Maribor home of animated and documentary as well as feature films. It was the place that welcomed in its programmes for feminist and LGBTQ films. Tarkovsky, Fellini, Ozu, Truffaut, Kurosawa, Antonini, Suleman, Soderberg, Melies, are just some of the big film names that were shown in this cinema. There were always some guests. Udarnik even organised open-air cinema during the summer. There were times they were thinking to add a third film on a daily schedule because of the interest of the public. So why was cinema Udarnik closed?

When the city, state and private sector couldn’t agree, the art was the one that paid a price. At the beginning there were ownership problems, the state had cinema ownership but coffee space that was a part of the cinema had four private owners. Of course, all of them wanted a fair rent for their space. Funny isn’t it, a city of Maribor gives volunteers money for a cinema and they then spend it to rent a space from the state.

But that was just the beginning of the problems for Udarnik. They managed for some time to pay the rent and all the costs of cinema rentals, electricity and other bills but then two years ago the European Commission decided that there is no space for analogue films in cinemas anymore. So the Udarnik crew had to buy a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) or end their cinema journey. 35mm and 70mm films in the EU only have a place in cinema museums.

So where is art house cinema culture now in Maribor? The city thought that the best thing for this kind of films was in a local multiplex. Art films in entertainment centre that sells cotton candy, coca cola, popcorn and nachos? To play works of Melies at a place that lives from shiny commercials? How could someone even for a second think that these people would be capable of promoting this culture.

Maybe the easiest way to explain the situation with this multiplex is to say that I went to the premiere of the new Blade Runner there a few nights ago. So at the premiere of the film, I was sitting in this huge cinema (probably somewhere around 300 seats) and there were only 9 other people that came to see this film. This is the Multiplex that hardly promotes their big flashy blockbusters so it is hard to imagine that they would put some posters for their art programme around the city (and they actually don’t).

All in all the story of cinema Udarnik is not something new and unknown, kino Tuškanac in Zagreb Croatia a few months ago got into situation similar to Udarnik, and Art House Cinema Kriteiron in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina has needed to reduce its film programme in the last two years to pay off debts caused by false promises of the city council and greedy owners. This is not a question of  one cinema, it is the question of film culture in general, because if we lose these places, how will we get next generation of cinephiles, critics and people who will organise festivals and why would someone want to make films if we don’t have a place to show them.

Photos are taken from: Facebook