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A Cinema In the Vilnius Airport 0

October program – Latvian short films; November – the best European short films from Eurochannel; December – a parade of Estonian short films

Photos: Lithuanian Film Centre

In May of this year, Eastern and Northern Europe's first airport cinema opened in the passenger lounge of Vilnius Airport. FilmBox lies next to Gate A2 and has 50 seats. Film showings are synched with flight schedules, and the selections are duly appropriate for the conditions of an airport. Only short films, documentaries, and animated films are shown. Entrance to the cinema is free of charge, and films are shown up until the boarding of the last flight of the day.

FilmBox is the brainchild of the Lithuanian Film Centre, and the Vilnius Airport aided in its realization. Liana Ruokyte-Jonsson, Head of the Film Promotion, Information and Heritage Department of the Lithuanian Film Centre, was the main instigator, while Gediminas Almantas, CEO of SE Lithuanian Airports, undertook to support the venture. “Vilnius Airport is not just a piece of infrastructure, it is also a space where passengers spend a lot of time. We care about our passengers and their good mood, which is why we established this cinema – so that our clients have an opportunity to relax before the flight, and at the same time, become familiar with Lithuanian film”, says Gediminas Almantas.

“We are very excited that the airport has welcomed in Lithuanian culture and the works of young filmmakers. This is one of the finest examples in Lithuania (and elsewhere) of how business and cultural institutions can cooperate through focusing on the feelings and experiences of people, rather than just pure profit”, says Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson. had the chance to speak to the team responsible for this wonderful project, and got an overview as to how they accomplished it.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced in realizing this project?

This project is unique not only in the Baltic countries, but also beyond its borders, so the project's development and its implementation were very interesting processes. And with such an excellent team as we have, it was an easily realizable goal.

We wouldn't call it a challenge, but one of the more controversial issues was deciding on which space at the airport would be best suited for this project, as well as the selection of an architectural solution. It was important to create a space designed not only for convenient film watching, but also one that would attract the attention of the passengers. The aim was to make this a feature of the airport that sets it apart from others.

Tell us more about the cinema’s architectural layout – what are the architectural and design components that every fan of contemporary architecture should pay attention to (materials, shapes, rhythm solutions, etc.)?

The airport's spacious layout dictated the terms of selecting an area with all of the necessary and accompanying detailed functional applications. The main task was to draw the passengers' attention and encourage them to come in and experience it. Accordingly, to accent the outer shell of the space, the architects designed an entrance that looks like a massive, but delicate, black tunnel with illumination that highlights the inner contours of its form.

The overall dominant style, both inside and out, is minimalistic and done in a monochromatic palette. It’s such a cliché, but “less is more’’ – and that’s what we aspired to. As a little playful accent, two seats in the viewing room are red, while the remaining 48 are white. A feature of the cinema's spatial uniqueness is that the space can be easily transformed by pulling out the acoustic wall, thereby connecting it with the passenger’s waiting hall. In this way it can be adapted to audiences larger than 50 people.

Please tell us more about how the films for the FilmBox LT repertoire were chosen. And could you name some highlights of the film program?

Until the end of the year, the cinema will be showing Lithuanian short feature films, documentaries, and cartoons that have been curated by the short-film agency Lithuanian Shorts; these films have been arranged into three programs – two for adults and one for families. The experts at Lithuanian Shorts have selected the best recent Lithuanian short films, and the repertoire will be regularly changed to show as many works by our country’s filmmakers as possible. All films are shown in Lithuanian, with English subtitles.

Our plan is to extend the program to include films from beyond Lithuania's borders as well. The idea is to have a guest country each month, beginning with Latvian shorts in October. This will be followed (in November) by the best of European shorts from Eurochannel (which happens to be focusing on Lithuania that same month), and in December, by shorts from Estonia. At the start of 2016, the Scandinavian National Film Institute will also be contributing a program of shorts. Future plans for FilmBox LT include introducing the best recent shorts films from other countries – such as Poland, The Netherlands, France and Israel – in cooperation with their national film agencies or official short film organizations.

How would you describe the way people reacted to this new opportunity to watch films at the airport?

People’s reaction was (and still is) great. Especially that of traveling young people, who are quite interested in Lithuanian film news; for them it was an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with their country’s cultural works. A lot of positive feedback about the project could be found not only on social media sites, but also from the airport’s partners, who were fascinated by such a beautiful, non-commercial initiative.

It’s really interesting that even the kind of people who almost never go to the cinema now visit our cinema at the airport – some visitors even come to the airport extra early to check in, so that they have time to see the films. And the program has also been a hit with the airport staff, who come by on their lunch breaks.