Reopening cinemas: Splendid Cinema in Riga
In this article, we have the feedback of Splendid Cinema’s team in Latvia on how was their reopening experience.
Cinemas across the world have slowly started reopening. Austria, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain are some of the countries which allowed cinemas to reopen already starting in May.
Curious to know what it feels like to go back to the cinema after months of closure, we have asked some of our members to give us their feedback on the reopening experience.
We have collected the first impressions of: Splendid Cinema in Riga, Latvia; Cinema Zlatna Vrata in Split, Kino Samobor in Samobor and Kino Valli in Pula, in Croatia; Kinodvor in Ljubljana, in Slovenia; Kino Tapiola in Espoo, in Finland; LantarenVenster in Rotterdam and Chassé Cinema in Breda, in the Netherlands; Cinema Rosebud in Reggio Emilia and Beltrade Cinema in Milano, in Italy.
Splendid Cinema, Riga (Latvia)
We talked with Daira Āboliņa-Ilješāne, programme curator of the cinema and film critic
How was the experience of reopening? How did your audience react?
It was exciting and positive. The decision to re-open the “Splendid Palace” cinema was made on the day after the state institutions made the decision to allow more than 25 people to assemble for cultural events. But the cinema was still closed for one week to make technical preparations and make creating agreements on the repertoire, and also to announce it.
We were very happy that our boldness to be the first reopened cinema in the city paid off. The decision to reopen was a much needed dose of excitement for us, the staff, but also for the movie-goers.
The “Splendid Palace” cinema is a large, 2-movie hall cinema and we believe the reopening to be a gesture of good will that has nothing to do with commercial gain. We wanted to certify the value of large-screen cinema (despite the accessibility of online cinema on the small at-home screens) and hoped our audience would appreciate it. And our hopes came true! The audience was moved and shared their feelings with our staff. They said: Awesome! Thank you for the exclusive screenings! Very good news. Good job, I’d very much enjoy a company of 25. Lucky people of Latvia!
What worked out the best at the reopening?
First of all, we tried to make it as clear as possible regarding our operation during this time. Our service staff were equipped with face shields (see-through masks) that looked quite elegant and not as scary. The media showed great interest in the reopening of this historical cinema, we gave several interviews on the radio and on the Latvian public TV cultural news (now available on YouTube) where our staff demonstrated how easy and, most importantly, safe, it could be, with a dash of humour.
At the very start, we urged people to buy tickets online via traditional and social media. We lowered the ticket price – all tickets cost 5,50 EUR. Knowing that there will be no huge new film releases, we used the existing resources that we did not manage to show when the crisis began. We came up with the slogan #comein! (#nāciekšā!). We said: we keep our promises! We started on the very first night with the missed première of the British film “Misbehaviour” and the black-and-white director’s cut of the film “Parasite” which was previously announced to be one of the events of the spring season. The tickets were sold out two days before the event.
Have there been any unforeseen difficulties around the reopening?
We were worried whether everything will work out fine. A lot of preparation went into this, as all of the chairs had to be marked with a special tape to that people could see which seats should be left empty. We were afraid of crowding, but people were understanding and supportive. We announced that tickets that were bought before the crisis can be exchanged, which was an additional strain for our staff. But everything turned out just fine!
How did you implement the security and health guidelines given by the authorities of your country?
We were a 100% in compliance with the established sanitary hygiene requirements. Getting there is an invaluable experience in working under crisis conditions. We made longer breaks in-between sessions to have more time to ventilate the rooms. We disinfected all rooms every other day. We had bought all of the necessary protective equipment beforehand. We made colourful and reader-friendly notices on the protocol of action during this emergency situation, and placed them throughout the cinema. Our staff were wearing face shields during sessions, but they were wearing their festive uniforms.
(interview of 29.05.2020)