Prague, Czechoslovakia: Outdoor Movies a Big Hit for International Audiences

Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, showing outdoors Sept. 29.. If you build it, they will come. Especially if it's free.

Local moviegoers disappointed by the city's inexplicable elimination of the outdoor cinema on StЕ™eleckГЅ Island have been filling Biograf LetnГ­ poloha past capacity all summer, but, unless you've been on the lookout, you might have missed it. Manager Petr PoЕЎvic, who ran the cinema program on StЕ™eleckГЅ, said Biograf LetnГ­ poloha, nestled on the MalГЎ Strana riverbank between Charles Bridge and MГЎnes Bridge, began partially as a generous response to the sudden cinema void.

"The project of a cinema connected to a summer bar was born from the necessity of having an open-air cinema in the center of Prague," he said. "Because of the capacity and available space at 4 CihelnГЎ street, we decided to play the movies from DVD and chose the free entrance model to get people to the cinema as soon as possible."

The cinema was packed on a recent evening, with almost as many people under the tent watching Waltz with Bashir as there were milling around the cafГ© cart, carousing amid a bevy of alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. PoЕЎvic said the scene was typical of this summer's turnout and indicative of the need for such an attraction in Prague 1.

Biograf LetnГ­ poloha CihelnГЎ 4, Prague 1 All films start at 8:15 Admission is free Upcoming films Sept. 19: Blow-Up Sept. 21: Beastie Boys: Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That Sept. 26: Ben-Hur Sept. 28: Casablanca Sept. 29: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Czech films with English subtitles Sept. 18: TajemstvГ­ hradu v Karpatech (A Mystery Castle in the Carpathians) Sept. 20: NebeЕЎtГ­ jezdci (Sky Riders) Sept. 30: Balada pro banditu (Ballad for the Bandit)

"The response has been very positive from locals and also from a young, sophisticated audience," he said. "We are over our capacity nearly every evening the weather is on our side."

The Czech model of mixing alcohol and film is a special treat for foreigners, who may not be used to imbibing in view of the big screen. Luckily, the cinema has and will continue to offer a number of films in English, as well as several Czech films with English subtitles. PoЕЎvic explained he had planned to focus on an international audience from the beginning, a strategy that has proved successful despite the limits of technology.

"We focus on timeless movies of Czech heritage and world cinematography," he said. "But the fact that we play from DVD is rather limiting, because it's not possible to get new movies."

Biograf LetnГ­ poloha will continue screening films at least until Oct. 10, and possibly longer. PoЕЎvic advised interested moviegoers to keep an eye out for a finale party, and to expect the cinema to return again next year.


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