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Today, the oldest film theatre in Lithuania opens its door once again

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2009 october 1
Today, October 1, the third Kaunas International Film Festival will revive “Romuva” – the oldest film theatre in Lithuania, which has recently been opening its door to cineastes only on exceptional occasions. The theatre was built on Laisvės Avenue in the heart of Kaunas city in 1939, but only served Kaunas citizens for a year – its operation was suspended by the events of World War II. “Romuva” was nationalised and the repertoire was strictly controlled by the State Cinefication Agency. Despite this, “Romuva” film theatre became the place of beautiful and romantic memories for several generations of Kaunas’ residents, and after the restoration of Lithuania’s independence had to face the challenges of privatisation.

“We care for the history of “Romuva” cinema and its new opportunities as it is a significant cultural venue of Kaunas city. We aim to sustain its life and make it open for each and every person interested in film. We believe that it would be impractical and unwise to destroy the venue built exceptionally for screening films. We aim to draw the attention of the society to this venue and invite the citizens and all cineastes to search for links with Lithuanian interwar film history and foster film as a genre of art. During the festival, about 50 screenings of 30 new films enjoying international recognition will take place in “Romuva”, tells Ilona Jurkonytė, director of Kaunas Film Festival.

Kaunas film theatre “Romuva” built between World War I and World War II has been declared the cultural value. 80 percent of UAB “Romuva” is owned by the Kaunas City Council administration and 20 percent by a private person.  In 2002, the theatre was leased to UAB Rosh for the period of 10 years, but in 2007 it was closed. More than a year ago, Kaunas City Council persuaded by individuals, public organisations and film organisations interested in culture, decided to preserve “Romuva” and enter into negotiations on the revival of the film theatre.

“We hope that the uncertainties concerning “Romuva” theatre will also be solved in the nearest future and that once again it will be alive and screen films. Kaunas Film Festival is the main power behind the theatre. We are glad that finally a film festival has also found its place in the city. Gradually, it becomes a traditional event and gains strong positions. Kaunas City Council is the patron of the festival and will not forget it. We hope that prestige and funding of Kaunas Film Festival will keep growing each year,” said Sigitas Šliažas, head of the Culture Division of the Education and Culture Department under the Kaunas City Council.

According to the director of Kaunas Film Festival, the lack of film venues in Kaunas also restricts the shape of the festival.

“The scope of the programme this year was clearly limited by the lack of film venues in Kaunas. We are glad to have reached an agreement to make the festival in “Romuva” after a one year break. The issue of survival and life of this film theatre is related to the shaping of the entire film culture policy in Lithuania. We fight for the continuity of “Romuva” as an independent film centre. However, considering that “Romuva” film theatre only has one screening hall, we hope to expand the festival to other film venues of Kaunas city next year. Hopefully, we will gradually turn Kaunas into the capital of film!” says Ilona Jurkonytė.

Kaunas International Film Festival is the only international film festival organised in Lithuania with the main programme screened outside of Vilnius. The festival has been titled the representative event of Kaunas city. It already has many fans and each year more and more viewers come to see the films.

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