This is a story about a small courtyard in the city centre of Odesa, just opposite the Potemkin Stairs. Since last summer, “Sunday“, an open-air cinema has been screening movies here. A little later after its opening, small parties were given – street food and ad hoc bars appeared. Right in this place, master classes and various lectures are being held.
This article is originally published by bzh.life. Translated by NovaEuropa.
We talked to the founders of “Sunday” and found out how they managed to turn a quiet courtyard in the heart of the city, into one of the iconic places for city dwellers.
During the war, the House of Mariners in Primorsky Boulevard was hit with a German bomb, practically destroying the large hall and the building’s central staircase but miraculously leaving the foreside untouched. In 1952 the building was reconstructed, and two wings were attached to it. And an open-air cinema for 700 spectators was founded in a courtyard.
This place was known to many Odesites, but not only to them. The courtyard appeared in episodes of the children’s musical “Petrov’s and Vasechkin’s Vacation, Ordinary and Extraordinary”. And in 1989 a “Golden Duke” film festival was held there, at which Viktor Tsoi (a famous musician) won a prize and the “best actor of the Soviet Union” title. The festival was the last event held in the courtyard. In the 90s the cinema was removed from operation and the courtyard emptied out.
Viktor Tsoi on the cinema’s steps
When activists Masha Zolotova and Kirill Tsvirkun stumbled upon an abandoned House of Mariners courtyard, they came up with an idea to revive the old cinema. The guys already had under their belt creating a co-working, a hostel and bar, and managing an art cluster in Odesa.
In spring 2014, thanks to volunteers from Aiesec organisation, the guys started to carry out voluntary work in the courtyard, sparing no time or effort. In fact, it took them two months just to remove all the rubbish from the courtyard.
“Everyone liked the idea, but seeing the yard’s condition, they refused to help and said that all this was unrealistic, saying it was all very good, but very expensive”, says Kirill.
There were some difficulties with financing. But the guys managed to provide the cinema with everything necessary through fundraising. Residents of Odesa brought the necessary things, someone in exchange for a place in the food court, others did it in return for nothing.
Thus, the volunteers collected materials to build benches out of 200 pallets, got the projector screen, provided the lighting and minimal setting, sort of dream catchers, as well as places for food courts.
Masha and Kirill
Another obstacle to the open air cinema opening was the neighbouring house occupants’ discontent. When the first screenings started, they began to complain about the noise. Then Mary, Kirill and their team decided to abandon the idea of the steady-state sound and started to carry out screenings with headphones. However, it was not enough – this time loud gatherings continued to bother the occupants.
As a result, the guys had to involve the local cooperative chairman in the work. They gave him a place in the food court, and he solved the issues related to the occupants’ dissatisfaction.
The courtyard is divided into two parts. The first one is a bar. Music is played here and parties are held. The inner part, separated by a brick wall, is the open-air cinema itself.
Screenings are held daily and two movies in a row are shown at the weekends. The guys make the programme, taking popular movies and their own preferences into consideration. For example, once running “Star Wars” for a week, they gave up showing series. “Half the audience were sitting with their lightsabers and wearing masks”, recalls Kirill with a smile.
Film screenings are free. At the entrance there is a container, in which everyone can leave a donation for the development of the cinema.
Dance, acting, yoga master classes and discussion clubs are organized, in addition to film screenings, parties and all sorts of lectures.
Now there are no volunteers left in the team. The guys raise money in their food courts which are visited by an average of 500 people daily, but these earnings are seasonal.
The “Sunday” team’s future plans include an open-air cinema openings in other cities, including Kyiv.