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Poland’s first e-cinema is now officially open

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- One of Kraków’s most recognisable arthouse venues is proving that the old guard does not surrender

Poland’s first e-cinema is now officially open
The Kino Pod Baranami e-cinema interface

Following the closure of all cinemas in Poland back in March, the beloved Kraków arthouse venue Kino Pod Baranami (lit. “Cinema Under the Rams”) has now moved online as the first virtual cinema in Poland. Its platform, accessible here and developed with the help of New Zealand-based company Shift72, already a staple on the COVID-stricken festival circuit, will feature carefully selected titles, special screenings, lectures and online discussions which, as argued by the organisers, will help it stand out among other similar initiatives, surely to follow next. Some titles – like Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, which screened on 28 April – are available only once, while others will remain available for rent later.

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“The idea for the e-cinema came primarily from the desire to keep in touch with our viewers. When the stationary cinema was closed, we began to look for a way to continue our work and reach our viewers online,” Marynia Gierat, head of the cinema established in 1969, told Cineuropa. “We wanted to provide them not only with films, but also with the opportunity to meet and talk. At Kino Pod Baranami, we believe that cinema is a meeting place, where all age groups can come together. That’s what we wanted to transfer online as well.”

While there is no shortage of online content available right now, enabling such interaction will help to at least partially “recreate” what is usually viewed as a typical cinema experience, according to Gierat – but also repair its finances. “This opportunity to talk with other people serves as a substitute for what we normally experience in the cinema, yes. At the same time, we give our viewers a chance to support us at this difficult time. It will be a real help.”

Its popular film clubs have also moved online, as the participants are now able to watch the movie on the platform and then discuss it via the internet. “When we had to close the cinema, our film clubs were the first ones to move,” explains Gierat, while mentioning the Student Night Film Club and the Meetings of Young Cinema Amateurs. Both are also benefiting from the change, with the latter already making plans to talk about Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s Honeyland [+see also:
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next. “We also keep in touch with our viewers on social media, which is extremely important – the activity of arthouse cinemas, such as ours, is based on this bond and on a close relationship with the audience.” An audience that now, for obvious reasons, can’t quite come together the way they used to. “It’s a community that simply misses each other,” she says, “and tries to support its members while waiting for this crisis to pass.”

Interestingly enough, the organisers – while also eager to re-open as soon as the law allows – are hoping to keep the platform alive, also after the pandemic. “I think the viewers will be more and more thirsty for cinema, actually,” says Gierat when asked whether the current situation will destroy the film industry as we know it. “It is not yet known when, and on what terms, it will be possible to return to the cinemas, but that desire is still there, and it will only get stronger. Cinemas must survive because nothing else can replace this shared experience, the multitude of emotions felt in a dark room,” she insists. “For sure, the market will change and streaming will play an even greater role, so it’s good that now we are ready for it, technologically. When we open our cinema again, our streaming platform will be right there, next to it, serving as a natural extension of our business.”

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