Over the first six months of this year, national cinema in Lithuania has seen a significant rise in attendance, as evidenced by box office returns: ticket sales of Lithuanian films have almost reached 60% of last year’s total (€2.6 million, compared to €4.5 million in 2017), attracting 500,000 viewers (compared to 860,000 for the whole 2017). National cinema has also increased its share in theatre programming to unprecedented 28% of the market, a significant rise from 22% last year.
A documentary feature is, for the first time, among the most-viewed films in Lithuania, setting a record for independent Lithuania’s documentary filmmaking. The title in question is The Ancient Woods („Sengirė“), a poetic nature documentary directed by Mindaugas Survila and produced by VšĮ Sengirė (Lithuania), Ma.ja.de Fiction (Germany) and Vesilind (Estonia). The film premiered on 30 March and continues its run in the theatres, attracting over 50,000 Lithuanian cinemagoers so far.
According to cinema theatre attendance figures for the first half of 2018, as many as five Lithuanian titles are among the top ten most viewed films, including three topping the list. Class Reunion: The Boys Are Back! („Klasės susitikimas. Berniukai sugrįžta!“, dir. Kęstutis Gudavičius) is number one, seen by 180,000 Lithuanian viewers. Owl Mountain („Pelėdų kalnas“), a historical drama directed by Audrius Juzėnas, has broken the dominance of Lithuanian comedies to reach the third spot on the list with 85,000 viewers. Another Lithuanian title in the top five is Saulius Baradinskas’ comedy The Return of Independence („Grąžinti nepriklausomybę“) which has sold 75,000 tickets. Mindaugas Survila’s above-mentioned documentary The Ancient Woods and Robertas Kuliūnas’ comedy I Am a Star („Aš Žvaigždė“) are also in the list.
The growing popularity of national cinema is doubtlessly predicated on significantly growing numbers of Lithuanian premieres. Last year, 11 new Lithuanian films were presented to the moviegoing audience, whereas 7 titles have already been released this year. Documentaries make up the majority of Lithuanian premieres: Wonderful Losers: A Different World („Nuostabieji lūzeriai. Kita planeta“, dir. Arūnas Matelis), Rūta („Rūta“, dir. Rokas Darulis and Ronaldas Buožis), 100 Years Together („100 metų kartu“, dir. Edita Kabaraitė) and The Ancient Woods. The other three were fiction features: Owl Mountain, The Return of Independence and I Am a Star.
The fact that Lithuania is celebrating the centenary of its statehood has doubtlessly had a bearing of this year’s profusion, with additional government funding and filmmakers’ interest helping the cinematic output. The Lithuanian Film Centre has supported the production of 17 features, documentaries and animated films that explore significant moments in Lithuania’s centenary. Some of the films have already been released, while others are awaiting premieres in 2018–2019. One of them, the documentary Rūta, reached cinema theatres in the first half of this year; Leitis („Leitis“), historical short film directed by Andrius Bartkus, premiered on 6 July to coincide with a national holiday; Bridges of Time („Laiko tiltai“), a documentary directed by Audrius Stonys and Kristīne Briede, had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Cinemagoers are also eagerly awaiting a big premiere in mid-October, Marius Markevičius’ historical drama Ashes in the Snow („Tarp pilkų debesų“), based on Rūta Šepetys’ best-selling novel Between Shades of Grey. The film, telling a story about difficult moments in the nation’s history, is also part of the celebrations marking Lithuania’s statehood centenary.
TOP 10 in Lithuanian cinemas in first half of 2018 (1 January – 1 July), based on the admissions
Class Reunion: The Boys Are Back! („Klasės susitikimas. Berniukai sugrįžta!“)
Fifty Shades Freed
Owl Mountain („Pelėdų kalnas“)
The Return of Independence („Grąžinti nepriklausomybę“)
Avengers: Infinity War
The Ancient Woods („Sengirė“)
I Am a Star („Aš Žvaigždė“)