This month we speak with David Beránek, the programme director of Bio Oko, an art house cinema which together with Světozor and Aero in Prague, Bio Central in Hradec Králové and Brno's Scala cinema is working in tandem with the Aerofilms distribution company.
Bio Oko is located in a lively neighbourhood of Prague and is equipped with a fully digital DCI Sony CineAlta 4K 320 projector and 300th LMT Dolby Digital 1.7 surround sound. It is also still carrying 35 mm projectors.
FNE: What is the biggest challenge of running a cinema such as yours?
David Beránek: Simply put, our biggest challenge is to keep our current audience and to keep creating opportunities to bring new ones. At the end, it’s all about new ideas and having the „inner engine“ to generate them. If we succeed in this, we will have something to offer. However, at the same time we need to keep the high standards of services that we provide - not just keeping up with the high screening standards, but also offering an easy way to buy tickets, serving beverages and food in the cinema bar (good quality of beer, of course), communication on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name the most important ones.
FNE: What kinds of films do you prefer to screen and why?
David Beránek: If I was to characterise our profile, I would say that we focus on quality mainstream and art house films in general. Of course there are target groups where we can broaden this portfolio a bit more, e.g. put more Czech films for senior screenings because these films are interesting for them even though the films’ quality might not fit the above mentioned criteria. Also, Oko managers have developed a strong tie to sci-fi movies when they were growing up, therefore Oko cannot miss an opportunity to place a sci-fi film or event.
FNE: The cinema is home to many festivals, events and film weeks. Why are these important and what do they achieve?
David Beránek: Festivals help us achieve the goal mentioned in the very first sentence, that is to bring new audiences into our cinema, and to make our programme more colorful, bringing films not distributed in our territory. They also keep putting higher requirements on us and our staff in terms of production, so it’s only good that these special screenings keep us in good production shape.
FNE: What is the role of Europa Cinemas for cinemas such as your cinema and why is it important?
David Beránek: Our membership in the network helps us compare our work and efforts on the international level, and this feedback is essential and very healthy. It also has its weight when talking to partners and the town hall when we seek their support for our activities. And of course there is the financial effect coming from the membership and meeting the criteria, and still this effect is very valuable for our stable financing.
FNE: How does a cinema like yours serve the local community?
David Beránek: Bio Oko is situated in a lively Prague quarter Letná. The neighborhood is still one of Prague’s busiest, yet residential areas, with many bars and bistros open till late hours. Many creative professions (designers, film producers, photographers etc.) found their ateliers and offices here, the State Cinema Fund sits nearby, too. Prague’s biggest park Stromovka is just round the corner. It’s important to realise these surroundings and needs of the neighborhood as these outline the ground on which Bio Oko created its strategy and mission. Our goal is simple – to serve as the local meeting and cultural point for the nearest neighborhood, but at the same time to cross the borders and limits of the neighborhood and be clearly visible in the entire Prague. That is done through bringing unique content and programme formats, which helps attract audiences from other parts of Prague.
FNE: Can you say something about your work with young audiences?
David Beránek: When talking about our young audiences activities, it’s important to say that we closely coordinate them with other Prague based cinemas Aero and Světozor and our common educational project Aeroschool. Besides that, Oko organises a film festival focused on kids called Malé oči (Small Eyes), and in 2018 for the first time we’d like to open a summer film city camp where kids would create their own films during the summer holiday camp. In the fall of 2018, Aeroškola will open its atelier near Oko, so this will be another great opportunity to lift our YA activities to a higher level.
FNE: What about the digitalisation of cinemas? How it is affecting your work and your cinema?
David Beránek: Digitalisation was a topic six-seven years ago, it’s not anymore. If we were not digitalised, there would be no Oko. It’s just that simple.