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Open-air 70mm cinema Mír in Chrudim, Czech Republic

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Stanislav Novotný, Czech Republic Date: 07.12.2010
Two UM 70/35 universal projectors in open air 70mm cinema. Image by Jaroslav Marek

Open-air cinemas in Czech Republic were a phenomenon of fifties and sixties. Instead of usual term “open-air cinema” is in Czech language used a word connection “summer cinema”. City of Chrudim with approximately 24,000 inhabitants is located circa 120 km eastward from Prague.

The open-air cinema Mír was built there in 1958 (Mír means Peace; names of cinemas in era of socialistic Czechoslovakia were not very inventive and lot of them had the same name, for instance 70mm cinema Mír in Krnov).
More in 70mm reading:

Chrudim Cinema Exhibition

5th 70mm film festival in Krnov: say KRRR! wide and aloud!

70mm in the Slovak Republic
Open Air cinema Mir in 1958.

Chrudim summer cinema was built in a quiet place behind the Regional museum near the centre of the city, partly with a help of volunteers and with a financial aid of the state. The place was originally used for sports (skating rink and tennis courts).

The summer cinema Mír was opened on 31st May 1958. It was equipped with a pair of Czech made heavy duty 35mm FTP-1 projectors capable to perform CinemaScope prints with four magnetic tracks. Auditorium capacity was 1 240 visitors and the screen size occupied area of 7.5 × 21 m.
Auditorium of open air 70mm cinema. Image by Stanislav Novotný

After 11 years this cinema was converted to 70mm projection and was re-opened on 6th June 1969. The first 70mm film performed there was the English historic drama "Becket". There were used two Czech made universal projectors UM 35/70 from Meopta Přerov. The six-track sound console AKT 635 was a product of Tesla Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic. The screen was enlarged up to 9.7 × 21.4 m with the area of 208 m2. It was the largest screen in Eastern Bohemia and the entire cinema was the first 70mm open-air cinema in this region.
Curved concrete screen with surface area of 200 sq meters. Image by Stanislav Novotný

However the iron curtain divided Europe in that time, there were lot of remarkable 70mm films performed in Czechoslovakia.

For instance, Czechoslovak cinema visitors could see spectacular films such as "Agony and Ecstasy", "Becket", "Cleopatra", "Old Shatterhand", "Grand Prix", "Flying Clipper", "Spartacus", "Battle on the Bulge", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Marooned", "It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World", "Sky over Holland", "Mutiny on the Bounty" (squeezed print was projected onto a regular screen 1:2.2), "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines", "My Fair Lady", "West Side Story", "Hello Dolly", "Anne for Thousand Days", "Lion in Winter", "Le Mans", "Fall of the Roman Empire", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "E. T. The Extraterrestrial" and many others (excuse me the non-configurational and not complete list of films).
The building behind the open air 70mm cinema is the regional museum. Image by Stanislav Novotný

There were also projected Soviet and East-German (DEFA 70) films, for instance "War and Peace", "Derzu Uzala" (USSR), "Orpheus in the Underworld" (GDR) etc. There were also two or perhaps only one (I am not sure now) Czech blow-up 70mm films performed. At least the "High Blue Wall", the Czech military propaganda film about the strength and a peaceful character of Czechoslovak air force, was available as 70mm print.
Projection booth behind visitors. The show has just started. Image by Stanislav Novotný

70mm films, especially those, which were made in the West, were very popular; nevertheless the attendance of cinemas slowly went down in the late eighties and in nineties that finally caused the abandon of many open-air cinemas and 70mm projection, as well.

Only a few people noticed in mid-eighties that the original screen made from burlap-like sound penetrating material was changed to a firm slightly curved concrete wall, which is much more durable than the pristine screen. Speakers originally placed behind the screen were moved under the bottom edge of the wall. The firm screen proved its quality and durability. Even after five years of absence of any maintenance it still looks very well.
Evening comes, the show is about to begin. Image by Stanislav Novotný

Summer cinema Mír in Chrudim was converted back to 35mm format in the mid-nineties. UM 70/35 projectors were replaced by a pair of MEO 5X due to lack of spare parts for UM 70/35.

Low interest of visitors and short season of only two months – July and August – of open-air cinema caused the final closing of this cinema in Chrudim in 2005. From that time open-air projections continue at a smaller place in the neighborhood of the Municipal cinema and also occasional shows in the main Ressel Square, where inflatable screen is used.
Open air 70mm cinema. Image by Stanislav Novotný

What caused the current situation of open-air cinemas Czech Republic in general? There were various reasons. Among them was a gradual decrease of visitors’ interest due to new media. The main reason probably was the Central European Summer Time that caused late beginning of shows due to diminishing but still disturbing daylight up to at least 10:30 P. M. during longest days. There could be also found the introduction of cyan-dye soundtracks as one of causes that led to massive reduction of a number of open-air cinemas in Czech Republic. Owners of these facilities considered additional expenses joined to conversion to red LED readers as unacceptable and closed them. Contemporary cost-effectiveness of open-air cinemas in Czech Republic is very low and if there are still some, they exist thanks to enthusiasm of their owners.

There are plans to convert this cinema to a multi-purpose area for recreation, leisure time and occasional events (concerts, shows etc.) The screen isn’t included to those plans and it probably will be demolished. I think however it might be conserved as a technical treasure but I cannot estimate, whether this idea would be acceptable for re-builders.
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Updated 21-01-24