You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With Rash of Restorations, Romania Looks to Rebuild Cinema Network

Transilvania Talent Lab trains indie exhibitors and spurs revival

Few Romanians will wax nostalgic about life before the fall of strongman Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed in 1989 after two decades of iron-fisted rule. But there was at least one industry that flourished under his Communist regime, with roughly 450 movie theaters operating across Romania at the time of the dictator’s death.

Cinema was an unexpected casualty of the country’s rough-and-tumble transition to democracy, when hundreds of theaters shuttered—many to reopen as bingo halls, pawn shops, nightclubs and churches. Admissions halved in the two decades after the fall of Communism, and Romania has the lowest rate of screen penetration in the E.U., according to a study released this year by the Council of Europe’s European Audiovisual Observatory, with nearly 60,000 inhabitants per screen—more than twice the number of neighboring Hungary, and roughly five times the number of cinephile France.

There’s been a cautious revival in recent years. Though Romania’s 90 cinemas are a fraction of the country’s Communist-era peak, that figure represents a nearly 20% increase from just five years ago, spurred by renewed efforts to renovate and restore old movie theaters. At the third edition of the Transilvania Talent Lab, which took place May 29 – June 2 during the Transilvania Intl. Film Festival, participants gathered to address how to make the most of that improvement, focusing on ways to professionalize an often ragtag network of independent theater operators scattered across far-flung provinces.

“There are so many things that you have to factor in, depending on where your cinema is, what is the building, what is the neighborhood, and what you want to do with it,” says Boglarka Nagy, programming manager of Bucharest’s Elvire Popesco Cinema, who led a series of Talent Lab workshops. Many newcomers to the world of independent cinema, she says, assume running a movie theater is just a matter of “turning on the projector…[and] pushing the play button. It’s not.”

The Talent Lab offered 10 exhibitors from Romania and neighboring Moldova a chance to develop their management skills and better understand how to market and promote movies. Part of the aim was to help theater owners understand what it takes to build a community of film-lovers, from digitizing cinemas to developing partnerships with local media to figuring out “who your audience is, and [how to] to cater to their needs,” says Nagy.

“For some of them, they are very skeptical,” says TIFF industry manager Dorina Oarga, who notes that many independent Romanian theaters are run by municipal authorities with no formal cinema management training. “Some, they are very surprised. They’ve been working in the cinema for 20 years, and nobody came to say, ‘Look, you can improve.’”

The numbers suggest cause for guarded optimism among local exhibitors. Admissions have risen more than 50% since 2013; total box office in that period jumped from $40.3 million in 2013 to $66.9 million last year, according to the National Film Center. While much of that success could be attributed to the expansion of Cinema City, Romania’s largest theater chain, which opened its 26th multiplex in May, the steady growth suggests even arthouse exhibitors stand to benefit from improved ways of doing business.

“It’s very necessary,” says former culture minister Corina Suteu, whose Film ETC. Association assists and consults with municipalities across Romania to revive local cinemas. The organization partnered with TIFF, Europa Cinemas, and the Association of Municipalities in Romania on May 31 to host a one-day event focused on teaching local authorities that cinemas can be engines of economic growth and development.

“The audiences are there,” says Suteu. “We just don’t give them what they need.”

More Film

  • Greek Films Under the Spotlight as

    Greek Films Under the Spotlight as Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes

    CANNES–Five projects by Greek filmmakers were presented Monday at Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes, the Cannes Film Market’s pix-in-post industry showcase supported by the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival. The third edition shined a spotlight on dynamic new fiction features whose producers are currently in Cannes looking for festival premieres, sales agents and distribution. Thessaloniki Intl. Film [...]

  • Martin Rejtman'Seymour: An Introduction' film premiere

    Martín Rejtman To Direct ‘The Practice’ – Five Countries To Produce

    CANNES — Argentina’s La Unión de los Ríos, Portugal’s Rosa Films –a co-producer on Albert Serra’s Un Certain Regard entry “Liberté”– Chile’s Forastero, Netherlands’ The Film Kitchen, Germany’s Pandora Films and Mexico’s Interior XIII have teamed to co-produce “The Practice” from Argentine director-screenwriter and writer Martín Rejtman (“Silvia Prieto,” “The Magic Gloves”). A pedigree multi-lateral [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Armstrong' Doc Set for Release on 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

    In today’s film news roundup, a Neil Armstrong documentary and “The Invisible Man” get release dates, “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan” get re-released and Patrick Fugit gets cast. RELEASE DATES Gravitas Ventures has bought worldwide rights to the Neil Armstrong documentary “Armstrong” and will open the film on July 12 in theaters and on [...]

  • Inside Goop's Wellness Summit With Gwyneth

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Summit Proves Hollywood Retirement Is Working for Her

    Across the country on Saturday, movie theaters sold over $12 million in tickets to “Avengers: Endgame,” helping it amass $771 million in the U.S. since its release in April. On the same day, in a stunning urban greenhouse complex in DTLA, the film’s supporting star Gwyneth Paltrow counted tickets of her own — pricey, perk-loaded [...]

  • Johnny Depp

    Johnny Depp's Ex-Lawyers Claim He Owes $350,000

    Johnny Depp was hit with a $350,000 lawsuit on Monday from a law firm that claims he has not paid his bills. Depp retained Buckley LLP in the fall of 2017 to sue his former entertainment law firm, Bloom Hergott LLP, which he accused of pocketing $30 million in fees without a written agreement. Three [...]

  • Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick'

    'John Wick 4' Confirmed With a 2021 Release Date

    John Wick will be back in exactly two years and a day. Lionsgate announced Monday that it has scheduled “John Wick 4” for May 21, 2021. The studio made the announcement via a text message to fans: “You have served. You will be of service. John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming – May 21, 2021.” [...]

  • Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With

    Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With $200 Million Fund

    Veteran film industry executive Krysanne Katsoolis has launched Viewpark, which will finance, package and release high-end film and TV content. Viewpark has partnered with former Wall Street executive Keith Price’s Obsidian Asset Management to create a multi-million dollar fund for the production and marketing of its slate, Katsoolis told Variety. Obsidian, based in London and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content