Prague’s art house cinemas reopen on May 24, multiplexes will wait for better rules

New films including some award winners will hit theater screens for the first time in seven months, but without popcorn or soda.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 20.05.2021 16:25 (updated on 21.05.2021)

Cinemas can reopen to the public on May 24, but with restrictions. Prague’s art house cinemas are eager to welcome back an audience, while multiplexes are waiting for a further relaxation of rules.

Patrons must prove they have passed a recent antigen or PCR test, are two weeks after being fully vaccinated, or have recovered from Covid within the last 90 days. Occupancy can be up to 50 percent of capacity to a maximum of 500 people indoors. People must be seated and wear respirators. Snacks and beverages cannot be sold.

Jan Bradáč, director of the distribution company Falcon and the Cinestar multiplex network, told reporters that multiplex chains will wait until snacks can be sold, as these are key to both making money and satisfying the audience. “Without the possibility of taking refreshments to the hall, half the people simply won't come at all,” he said.

“It simply is not possible without popcorn," he said.

But the smaller theaters work on a different business model, and many look forward to operating up after being closed for 233 days – since Oct. 12, 2020. Světozor since it transformed into an art house in the early 2000s has prided itself on its lack of popcorn, and has made a wide use of a logo proclaiming “popcorn-free culture.”

Prague’s Aero, Bio Oko, and Světozor, which are operated by the company, have announced they will reopen with an ambitious schedule of new titles. Přítomnost, also part of the Aero chain, is reopening as well but has not yet posted its schedule. Other cinemas starting up again with a mix of old and new are the Evald, Lucerna, Kino Pilotů, and Atlas.

“We are excited to turn on the projectors in our halls again after more than seven months. We want to welcome our fans in a great way, so in the first week we will give them a program full of great new things,” Aero cinema director Jiří Flígl said.

“At the same time, we will observe the maximum safety measures so that every spectator feels as comfortable and risk-free as possible. So I cordially invite all film lovers to visit; our program is guaranteed to brighten up long days without culture,” he added.

Of the new films being presented at the three Aero-operated cinemas, the one most of interest to an English-speaking audience is Falling (Ještě máme čas). Viggo Mortensen, wrote, directed and stars in this complex tale of family relationships. Lance Henriksen. Laura Linney, and Terry Chen also appear and David Cronenberg has a small role.

Also new to screens from Aero’s film distribution arm is the Slovak film Servants (Služebníci), set in a theological seminary in 1980. It won the top prize at the most recent Febiofest.

The winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlinale, the Romanian film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Smolný pich aneb Pitomý porno) will have a limited number of preview screenings. Both of these films will be in their original language versions with Czech subtitles.

 “Viewers of our films love movies as much as we do. Therefore, we decided not to wait for anything and to put films with biggest festival appeal and high-caliber actors straight into cinemas. We believe that the audience will appreciate returning to cinemas, despite a bit of inconvenience, and together with us they will set out for an experience that only the screen can convey,” Aerofilms director Ivo Andrle said.

Other distributors are also releasing some interesting dramas, comedies and documentaries, but no blockbusters yet. These will be in art houses across Prague.

For English speakers, the most interesting of these is the award-winning black comedy Promising Young Woman (Nadějná mladá žena), starring Carey Mulligan, which hits theaters May 27. The film had five Oscar nominations and won for Best Original Screenplay.

Also hitting screens are the Danish film Riders of Justice (Rytíři spravedlnosti), starring Mads Mikkelsen, the Czech documentary The Alchemical Furnace (Alchymická pec) about surrealist Jan Švankmajer, the Swedish documentary I Am Greta about the climate activist, and the offbeat dark Czech drama Cook F**k Kill (Žáby bez jazyka).

People will also have a chance to catch up on hits from last year such as the action sci-fi film Tenet, or the Czech biopic Charlatan (Šarlatán), which has some screenings with English subtitles.

The Oscar-winner for Best International Feature Film, the Danish comedy-drama Another Round (Chlast), is also playing, but only in Danish with Czech subtitles.

The first significant film festival in Prague will be Days of European Film, held June 16 to 20 at the Lucerna, Světozor, Kino Pilotů and Přítomnost cinemas. In the long term, Febiofest will be held Sept. 17 to 24. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will be held in West Bohemia on Aug.20 to 28.

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