In this issue, the “Women in Digital Cinema” column, which since 2006 has been publishing first-person accounts from women working in a sector traditionally occupied by men, takes the form of an interview.
It is devoted to Natalie Baydan, CEO of Planeta Kino, who shares with us her view of the situation of Ukraine’s movie theatres.
CEO of PLANETA KINO, the Ukrainian cinema group including 9 sites and 68 screens
1. Mrs Baydan, would you please explain to our readers the present situation of cinemas in Ukraine?
Sure, it’s absolutely obvious that the whole situation for our industry is very hard. It’s much worse during the war than it was during Covid19. We had to close our cinemas on 25th of February as soon as Russian invasion of our country started. During that time nobody knew how the whole situation would develop and how badly Ukraine would be affected by the war.
In mid-March it became clear that we could probably work in our cinemas in Lviv, which belongs to the Western part of Ukraine where there was no active military operation. Moreover, many Ukrainian families had to move there because of continuous bombing of their regions.
So we re-opened two cinemas in Lviv. We focused on content for families and children, understanding that people were very much affected by the war emotionally and psychologically. We wanted to assist our young clients to get over the horrors of war, to make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible under such circumstances.
2. Why and under what conditions has PLANETA KINO decided to reopen several of its sites?
When we understood we could open our cinemas in Lviv and we could work safely enough I decided to open more cinemas in the city of Odessa. We did this in April. Then we came to the decision to open Kyiv at the end of April.
The biggest challenge for us was to open Sumy after de-occupation, as this city is so close to the Russian border. But we successfully did it at the beginning of May and started hosting our lovely clients.
There is still a problem with our cinema in Kharkiv, as this city is regularly bombed and shelled by Russian military forces. There are ruined shopping malls, universities, hospitals there. Our cinema is still alive and we believe that as soon as our armed forces make it possible we’ll reopen our cinema there as well.
3. Which movies has PLANETA KINO been showing in these last few weeks? And what will your programming include in the future?
We have been showing “Uncharted”, “The Gentlemen”, many animated films like “Sing 2”, “The Addams Family 2”, “100% Wolf”, many Ukrainian movies.
Now, we have made progress with our local distributors and Hollywood studios to bring back premiers and new titles to Ukrainian cinemas. So, in May we are waiting for “The Batman”, which we missed in March, “Belfast”, “Ambulance”, “The Contractor”, “Panama”, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”, “The Bad Guys”, “The story of my wife”….
So, as you can see, we do our best to present different movies for different clients in so that each of them can find something interesting.
about spectators? What type of audiences are attending the screenings in this period?
Our clients are good fans of our cinema chain and cinema experience. We regularly communicate with all our clients to inform them what we are showing in our cinemas. Of course, now our clients are mostly students, young audiences, moms with children.
And we are very grateful to them that, despite regular air alerts everywhere, they come to support us.
5. Have you received any support or help from cinemas, exhibitors or distributors outside Ukraine?
Not really and frankly speaking, it’s not so important for us now. Much more important now is military support for our army to give them an opportunity to free our country as soon as possible.
Then, Ukrainian business will be able to find solutions to all our problems, we all are strong enough.