The now-disused Patria Summer Garden in Craiova. Photo courtesy of http://www.salvatimareleecran.ro
After the fall of Communism, one of Romania’s most flourishing cultural industries has slowly fallen into disuse: that of the country’s cinemas. What once a pillar of local entertainment is almost nonexistent nowadays: the number of open cinemas in the country has fallen from circa 450 theatres to just around thirty in the present day. Of course, along with the crisis that most Romanian state institutions had to come to terms with in the aftermath of the Revolution, movie theatres haven’t aged well in a technological era, which enables audiences to watch films from the comfort of their own homes (on their television, on cassette tapes or DVDs, or even to pirate them) or after a shopping session at the mall, in the private Cityplex circuit. As such, Romania has become of the European countries with the fewest cinemas per capita, with 0.89 per 100.000 citizens. (Salvati Marele Ecran n.d.)
Cinema has been shown to have a great influence on society, not only has an industry which conveys certain messages to a high amount of people (with the possibility of influencing their outlook on life and their actions), but also as a social practice in itself. The final aim of a night at the movies’ is more than just watching a film: it means going out with friends, it is relaxation, it is fun, exiting and glamorous. It is the creator of several rituals: that of ticket-buying, that of discussing the film before and after its completion and that of having a date at the movies. It engages social actors and has its own culture, with a specific set of norms, values, knowledge, activities, history and even language. (Liponnen, Jefimova and Rebelo n.d.)
What happens when the infrastructure needed for the above facts collapses? There is somewhat of a paradox to be observed: from 2006 to 2013, the gross box office revenue in Romania grew from 6.6 mil Euro to 32 mil., which means it grew almost five times across 7 years (although a huge increase in box office earnings can be observed across all Central and East-European countries for the same period of time) (Media Salles 2013). This may be explained by the fact that the second half of the previous decade brought with itself the first, privately-owned (and, as such, more expensive) mall cinemas: the Cinema City franchise, for example, was registered in 2006 and currently operates 20 theatres, almost as many as those administered by the state. (Cinema City n.d.) (This can also be attributed to economic factors such as inflation, as well.)
At the same time, however, the number of attendees was falling dramatically. From almost 26 million in 1994, the number of total cinema admittances in Romania is down to 9,5 million in 2013, with the year of 2006 having a record-low amount of 2,7 million tickets sold. (Media Salles 2013) The increase in admittance prices is also notable: from 1994 to 2004, the price was more than 12 times greater, while from 2005 to 2012, the price doubled in amount. (Media Salles 2013)
The results indicate a bleak, expectable reality: the collapse of the state-run industry’s infrastructure has directly led not only to a lowering of the amount of admissions to films in Romania, and could also be correlated with the dramatic rise in prices of cinema tickets. Even though, arguably, the appearance of private actors in the field has stimulated the practice of cinema-going, the fall in attendance is still dramatic to behold, and will surely have consequences on the Romanians’ social behavior and affect the way cinema culture behaves in this given space.
Journalism EN, Year III
Cinema City. Introducere. n.d. http://www.cinemacity.ro/intro.
Liponnen, Kaisa, Jelena Jefimova, and Acacio Rebelo. “Semiotics of Culture. The Notion of Cinema-Going.” n.d. http://www.semionet.fr/ressources_enligne/Enseignement/03_04/03_04_Bayreuth/Projets/cinemagoing.pdf.
Media Salles. Admissions (x 1 000). 2013. http://www.mediasalles.it/ybk2013/index.html.
—. Average ticket prices . 2013. http://www.mediasalles.it/ybk2013/index.html.
—. Gross box office revenues. 2013. http://www.mediasalles.it/ybk2013/index.html.
Salvati Marele Ecran. Despre. n.d. http://www.salvatimareleecran.ro/despre (accessed 2015).