26.06.2021 – 25.07.2021
From June 26 to July 25, the photo exhibition Cinemas in the Region arranged by the media education and research centre Meno Avilys was housed in the Exhibition Hall of the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania (Gedimino pr. 51).
Last year, Meno Avilys started the research on cinema exhibition culture in the regions of Lithuania and, together with the photographer Simas Lin, travelled around the country with the aim to capture the stories of various movie theatres, the uniqueness of buildings and locations, and their typical features. During the research, a document from 1988 was discovered containing the list of Lithuanian cinemas and other film exhibition places. The list served as the starting point in this journey in search of old cinemas. The research has revealed that out of the 260 film screening venues functioning in Lithuania during the Soviet period approximately 160 were cinemas, the majority of which – 140 – were situated in the regions of the country, i.e. not in Vilnius or Kaunas. Today, only twenty of such regional cinemas that have preserved their initial architectural looks have survived.
The exhibition Cinemas in the Region presented a part of the surviving Lithuanian cinemas, their interior as well as portraits of the people who used to or still work in these film screening venues. Four fully operating cinemas – the cinema Dainava in Alytus, Spindulys in Marijampolė, Minija in Gargždai, and Virinta (founded by the community) in Alanta – are among them. In the other cinemas displayed in the exhibition, second hand furniture shops, stores, day and youth centres, and various other small businesses were established. Some of them are neglected and unused or are being renovated. The exhibition also displayed the photos of one of the most modern cinemas of that period – Garsas in Panevėžys – that has only recently been demolished.
The documentary photos by the photographer Simas Lin reflect the diversity of these venues still bearing traces from the past; sometimes surreal and totally unexpected images of the new reality of cinemas. Empty cinema screens have become the main element uniting the entire exposition. Yet their emptiness should not be regarded as the end of the old cinemas but rather as an open possibility for future cinematic narratives. Exhibition spectators were invited to look closer at the cinemas for each of them constitutes an artwork witnessing the historical and technological changes and establishing new bonds with the environment and people.
Meno Avilys is a non-governmental organisation operating independently in the sphere of film and audiovisual media, established in 2005 by like-minded people. The centre takes care of media education and the knowledge of cinema culture, organises screenings of unconventional films, promotes discussions and informal conversations, helps filmmakers to develop and create their debut works. Meno Avilys protects and highlights the audiovisual heritage, promotes gender equality in the film industry through various conducted research, and offers space for less-heard voices in the area of cinema culture.
The project has been partly financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.