This month we speak with Mateja Lapuh, the programmer of Mestni kino Ptuj, Slovenia. The Ptuj City Cinema is a historical venue, where the first film screening took place almost 120 years ago. It screens a diverse, interesting and contemporary cinematic programme, while striving to preserve the building’s romantic retro flair.
A member of Europa Cinemas and the Slovenian Art Cinema Association, the cinema is managed by CID Ptuj. It is run by a very small but committed team, passionate about providing its audience with a comfortably sophisticated space for enjoying films, good conversations and other activities that enrich one’s daily life.
FNE: What is the biggest challenge of running a cinema such as yours?
Mateja Lapuh: The biggest challenge for a while now has been communicating to the authorities that an institution such as ours needs stable funding for the core staff. We have been struggling with the problem of being understaffed for years, and as our film programme, number and complexity of events, and the audience grow, this is becoming even more of a challenge.
It can become very difficult to juggle the various tasks that maintain a cinema such as ours – curating a good and attractive programme, addressing new audiences, responding to the needs of our regulars, and developing fresh ideas, while also dealing with mundane necessities such as keeping the old building in operational shape and securing funding from several sources. To do all this well in the long run, our tiny team undoubtedly needs to grow.
FNE: What kinds of films do you prefer to screen and why?
Mateja Lapuh: As we are the only cinema in our small town, we do aim to cater to a wide variety of tastes and demographics, so our programme is quite diverse. While we do also include blockbusters in our programme, our main focus remains on screening European and world films, art films and independent productions. We also pay a lot of attention to providing diverse content for our young audiences.
Our selection of the best, most original and provocative films of the past season is screened in our annual open-air cinema Kino brez stropa (Cinema without Ceiling). The programme of this event always consists of films that, in our opinion, merit a second (or third, or fourth …) viewing, and films that we feel failed to receive the attention they deserve during their regular cinema run.
I feel that it is very important that the cinema-going experience transcends the casual – it should be a pleasant event that one remembers fondly, this is why we try to offer our audience the opportunity to enjoy excellent films and special events regularly.
FNE: The cinema is home to many festivals, events and film weeks. Why are these important and what do they achieve?
Mateja Lapuh: Indeed, we do host many special events in Mestni kino Ptuj. We host numerous festivals or post-festival screenings, such as IFFR Live, Film na oko/Eye for Film, Animateka, Festival gorniškega filma/Mountain Film Festival, LGBT Film Festival, Festival of European and Mediterranean Film, etc.
In addition to these, we have regular special events for children, regular screenings for young parents with babies, occasional concerts and exhibitions and other special events. We regularly accompany film screenings with debates with interesting guests in our Pogovor o(b) filmu/Film Talks programme. We invite filmmakers to present their new works or experts in various subjects to elaborate on a topic covered in a particular film.
Our most popular annual event is the aforementioned Kino brez stropa/Cinema without Ceiling. For one summer week, our programme moves under the stars into the inner courtyard of the Castle of Ptuj. The lovely setting, warm summer nights, free admission and a carefully curated programme have proved to be a recipe for success – the screenings are immensely popular and have become a great way for us to introduce people to films that might have otherwise flown under their radar. We get people talking, we get them excited about cinema and that is a wonderful thing!
FNE: What is the role of Europa Cinemas for cinemas such as your cinema and why is it important?
Mateja Lapuh: First and foremost, we are very honoured to be part of a network and brand that is globally recognised and respected. The networking and educational opportunities Europa Cinemas offers are invaluable and we always strive to make the most of them, as well as of the possibility of exchanging opinions, experience, good practices and other information with our fellow network members.
The financial support we receive from Europa Cinemas is also essential for us, as it is a stable additional source of funding for our programmes. And last but not least: the jingle of Europa Cinemas’ teaser trailer that we screen before each film is very catchy and our whole team agrees that it gets us really excited about the upcoming film – and makes us want to dance.
FNE: How does a cinema like your serve the local community?
Mateja Lapuh: We are the only cinema in our town and the only Europa Cinemas & Slovenian Art Cinema Association member in the area – this makes us the go-to spot for many lovers of art house films, as well as the cinema of choice for many families with children and local film buffs. We maintain successful collaborations with local art festivals (Days of Poetry and Wine, Art Stays), associations and businesses, and we are also the place where local young people and artists can gain some work experience and recognition by helping out in the cinema, leading workshops for children, etc.
The attractive building of Mestni kino Ptuj as well as its programme are also an interesting part of Ptuj’s tourist offer. But most of all, we are one of the most active and popular cultural institutions in the Municipality of Ptuj and also one of the oldest ones – in 2017 we will be celebrating the 120th anniversary of the first screening!
FNE: Can you say something about your work with young audiences?
Mateja Lapuh: CID Ptuj, the institution that manages the cinema, is actually a youth centre; therefore, you can imagine that young audiences are of special importance to us. We have developed a number of programmes directed to children and youth: Kino vrtiček/Little Cinema Garden for pre-schoolers and kids up to eight years of age, which brings a creative and playful workshop after screenings of selected children’s film; Kinoskop for older children (8+), with workshops aiming to take a deeper look into the world of cinema; school screenings accompanied by introductions and optional talks after the screenings; free presentations of the cinema and how cinemas work for school groups …
In addition to this, we regularly organise animation workshops, we offer cheaper tickets for students and we have collaborated twice with Luksuz Produkcija on the organisation of an international youth exchange focused on filmmaking (documentary and fiction shorts). We also regularly organise special screenings directed to young parents with babies, so for many young ones our cinema is the first one they ever visit.
In working with young audiences, we feel that it is especially important to offer a carefully curated and presented programme, which not only entertains the little ones, but also gets them excited about film and gets them thinking about cinema in general. In our experience, systematic work with young audiences is crucial for developing a local community of film enthusiasts of all ages.
FNE: What about the digitalisation of cinemas? How it is affecting your work and your cinema?
Mateja Lapuh: Since we digitalised the cinema in 2014, our world pretty much turned upside down. The immense array of options digitalisation brings in regard to programming flexibility, is a substantial improvement, but also a significant challenge for us. We are able to offer a more diverse and flexible programme to our audience, but it has become a greater challenge for me as a programmer to put it all together.
Our projectionist’s daily work has also become a lot more challenging and it requires constant learning. Despite all this, it is wonderful to have the freedom of programming a wider selection of films and to be able to guarantee top-quality picture and sound for each one of our screenings.
Population: 2.089 m (2019) GDP per capita in USD: 24,395 (2019) Admissions: 2.310 m (2019, estimated) Admissions per capita: 1.106 (2019, estimated) Box office: 12,476,000 EUR (2019, estimated) Feature film production: 21 (2019) (Feature films including coproductions) Number of screens: 111 (2019, estimated) Digital screens: 111 (2019, estimated) Average ticket price in Euro: 5.40 (2019, estimated) Annual state support for film industry: 5.585 m EUR (2019)
Source: Slovenian Film Centre, Cenex, Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, International Monetary Fund
Admissions Top Ten 2019
Source Slovenian Film Agency
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