Vilnius international film festival “Kino pavasaris” (English – Cinema spring), which has moved to a virtual space due to the quarantine, has presented a new idea for film screening – project “Aerocinema – the journey begins”. In May of 2020 at the Vilnius Airport area, where normally planes take off and land, a drive-in cinema was opened. Spectators longing for the spectacular experiences and travels had the opportunity “to fly” in ever-changing directions for four weeks with the help of a giant screen. Over 60 cinema trips were organized at Vilnius Airport and about 13 500 people took part in them with their cars.
The Vilnius international film festival “Kino pavasaris” is the largest and most visited film event in Lithuania, which has become a very influential phenomenon for the country’s culture over the past 25 years. Over the last decade, festival’s “Kino pavasaris” attendance has grown from 55 000 up to 126 000 (2019). The uniqueness and strength of the film festival program is that it presents the most distinctive filmmakers from around the world, who rarely can be found in the regular cinemas. 2020 was to be the 25th anniversary of the festival. But the pandemic had already conquered the world, therefore, the festival moved to the screens of the audience’s home. And so the festival, together with the Copenhagen international documentary film festival CPH: DOX, which started at the same time, became the world’s first film festivals to be moved to virtual space. But that was just the beginning before the impressive project “Aerocinema – the journey begins”. The festival “Kino pavasaris” is organized annually by a public institution of the same name, which is active in the field of organizing audiovisual art events. The main activity of the institution is the showing of films and the distribution of non-commercial films. Although the festival “Kino pavasaris” is their largest organized event in Lithuania, the institution also organizes other audiovisual projects and exceptional events. As a socially responsible organization, it annually presents social and educational projects, such as specially adapted film screenings for the disabled people, educational programs for students, science promotion festivals, and more.
In the spring of 2020, the experimental project “Aerocinema – the journey begins” became a phenomenon in Lithuania and abroad, when for the first time in history it opened a drive-in cinema on the apron of Vilnius Airport operating for a month. The films were shown on a giant screen the height of a five-story house, a screen of this size and image quality in the Baltics has not been installed before. The sound of the film, as is usual in such areas, was transmitted on radio waves at a specified frequency through the car radio. To care for nature, spectators were asked to turn off the lights and engines of the machines during the sessions. The safety of the spectators was ensured during the movie sessions – during the whole session, the spectators were asked not to get out of their cars. If necessary, car windows were allowed to open, but it was mandatory to cover the nose and mouth with the masks, a distance of at least two meters was maintained between the cars. The number of cars per session was limited and the tickets were sold only online.
Ticket prices ranged from 12 to 18 euros per car, depending on the time of the session and the number of people. There were organized day and evening film screenings of Oscar-winning or nominated films to a wide audience for both adults and children. Only cars with no more than two people were allowed in the evening sessions. Cars with more than two passengers could also attend the daytime sessions, but they all had to be family members. During the opening of the festival “Kino pavasaris”, the film, considered a masterpiece, “Parasite” the black and white version premiered to the audience. The film, made by a South Korean director, was awarded four Oscars, but during this festival, the black and white version of the film was shown to Lithuanian viewers for the first time. And that is just one example of the exclusive movies shown during the drive-in cinema screenings. “The travel directions” of the films were diverse from European countries to Asia or South America. According to the organizers of the project “Aerocinema”, when people are longing for travel and the excitement of the imminent vacation at the airports, the cinema and the unexpected space provided an opportunity to travel safely and return full of impressions.
More than 60 film journeys were organized at Vilnius Airport, in which approx. 13 500 people took part in their cars. The high popularity of the project “Aerocinema” has shown that people long for the events. As the festival “Kino pavasaris” director states “watching movies or watching concerts from the cars today is no longer new, so we wanted to create a unique experience. The mere fact that you can get to the airport apron by car, where you can usually get on or off the plane only after the check-in, is very interesting”. Films that have attracted worldwide attention have been shown during the festival. When traveling abroad was restricted, the films at the “Aerocinema” cinema screenings allowed people to travel at least in this way and visit not only the various European countries, but even the other continents. Moreover, the project also had the social side. During the pandemic, the entire aviation sector went through very difficult times, many professionals who helped us travel the world safely lost their jobs, airlines and airports suffered huge losses. Therefore, the initiative of a drive-in cinema at the airport area was as if a gratitude to the aviation workers who went through the difficult times. The project “Aerocinema – the journey begins” received a lot of media attention in the world. Over 400 publications, radio broadcasts and video reports were counted including the New York Times, BBC Radio, Euronews, Lonely Planet, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Deutsche Welle and many more. Publications in the world media have reached an audience of approximately 350 million. According to the representatives of the official development agency of the Vilnius city and project partner “Go Vilnius”, such international dissemination is one of the largest in comparison with other Vilnius news and projects covered by foreign media. The growing number of spectators of quality films every year in the festival “Kino pavasaris” is promising for the Lithuanian film culture in the future. And projects like “Aerocinema” help to interest and attract not only a larger number of people, but also a wider audience, thus growing and educating the spectator and developing film culture in Lithuania.
Project “Aerocinema – the journey begins” was an unusual experience in a place which you cannot simply enter that received a lot of attention in Lithuania and around the world. It gave an unforgettable experience for people who were missing cultural events during the quarantine. It might be that this original initiative will be continued in the future as a traditional event or maybe we will be surprised with the cinema screenings in the original locations again.
- Official webpage of the public institution “Kino pavasaris”, “Apie festivalį”, https://kinopavasaris.lt/lt/apie-festivalį (accessed November 24, 2021).
- Official webpage of Vilnius airport, Startuoja įspūdingas projektas AEROKINAS – „Kino pavasario“ seansai Vilniaus oro uosto perone, https://www.vilnius-airport.lt/lt/naujienos/aerokinas (accessed November 24, 2021).