Steps to save “Bratislava” movie theatre in Kyiv

Movie theatre “Bratislava”, in Kyiv, is a typical sample of soviet modernism architecture. However, it is not listed as an object of heritage. “Bratislava” is run by a public company “Kyivkinofilm”. At present, the building is in a very bad condition and is closed for renovation. “Bratislava” became the focus of public attention in early 2016: rumors claimed that there was a project to knock it down and to construct there a high-rise building. Local Kyivans opposed such future for the old movie theatre and started initiative “Save “Bratislava” with the aim is to remain it in municipal property and to revitalize it. The question is what “Bratislava” should become after renovation and who will pay for renovation.

Kyiv, October 5, 2016. Decision about the future of “Bratislava” movie theatre can be made after a technical expertise of building condition. It will show whether restoration is possible and how much it would cost. Such expertise can be ordered by an operating company (“Kyivkinofilm”) or Kyiv City State Administration. Public hearings should take place to decide how the building will be used after reconstruction, summed up experts, representatives of municipal authorities and local community after discussion in Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

City authorities and operating company: project of high-rise building is “nothing but rumors”  

There will be no constructions on the place of “Bratislava”, claims Sergiy Anzhyak, first deputy director of Cultural Department, Kyiv City State Administration. “There is no construction plan for this location and there couldn’t be any without intervention of Kyiv Investment Agency. For that, they should have launched an investment competition”, he said.

“Kyivkinofilm” representative said that the company is going to preserve “Bratislava” as well as other municipal movie theatres of the city. The only motive behind the decision to close it is the need to renovate it.  “The movie theatre cannot continue functioning in present condition, that’s why we closed it”, said Larysa Zubenko, company representative. She explained that due to poor financial resources the company can afford only targeted reparation. For instance, last year two halls of “Leipzig” movie theatre were renovated as well as one hall in Shevchenko movie theatre. “Bratislava” is next in line. “Now these movie theatres are more profitable. This money is accumulated on our account and will be invested into “Bratislava” renovation”, she added.

Restoration vs. Reconstruction

According to Sergiy Anzhyiak, city authorities consider two options for “Bratislava”. The first is to remain the building as it is and to restore it, the second is an investment competition. “The compulsory requirements for investors will be to preserve this building as movie theatre or to create there a cultural center and to improve territory around it. I cannot tell any details about acceptable dimensions of a potential new building, this is up to Kyiv Investment Agency”, he emphasized. Mr. Anzhyiak added that should the investment competition be held, the building will remain municipal property and “will not become completely private property”.

Iryna Prokopenko, general director of Kyiv methodology & research center for protection, renovation and exploitation of heritage-listed buildings and preserved areas, noted that “Bratislava” is not listed as an object of cultural heritage. The Center could consider expert examination and list it as a heritage of the history of city construction for its technical peculiarities. “However, after that you can’t change anything, you can only restore the existing building”, stressed Ms. Prokopenko. According to Vladyslava Osmak, head of the Center for Urban Studies at National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, it would be best for the city to preserve the building in its authentic appearance.  “This is one of the objects that help us identify this district as a particular urban area. Should it disappear, it will lose a part of its local identity”, she said.

Oksana Sarzhevska-Kravchenko, director of “IZOLYATSIA” foundation, suggests that decision on “Bratislava”should be based on a city development conception. “There General Architect should offer a conception on what Kyiv should look like, what should be preserved and what can be changed. Without such conception decision-making process will be too chaotic”, she explained.

Stand of the local community: it is acceptable that renovated “Bratislava” won’t be a movie theatre, however it must remain a cultural institution

“The majority is for preserving “Bratislava” as a movie theatre or other cultural institution”, said  Ganna Svyrydenko, deputy of Kyiv City Council, leader of civil campaign “Save “Bratyslava”. This is a result of a poll in social media. Local community suggestions for “Bratislava” future include European Cinema Center, center of patriotic education, museum of political history or museum of contemporary art. Anatoliy Koval, community representative who was present at the discussion, suggested establishing there culture & education center “Obolon” [name of the district].

City authorities and operating company: “Bratislava” should be a movie theatre and a cultural center

City and district authorities as well as “Kyivkinofilm” suggest that “Bratislava” should become a cultural center hosting a movie theatre, a school of arts, an exhibition gallery, a “free stage” etc. It could also become a House of Nationalities where national minorities would hold their cultural events. “In my personal opinion, all municipal movie theatres including “Bratislava” should function not as movie theatres, but as cultural centers”, said Oleksandr Pozhyvanov, deputy of Kyiv City Council. He added that it is very important to take into account suggestions of the local community as well as city authorities.

Civil experts: “Bratislava” should become a public space for local community

Civil experts suggest transforming “Bratislava” into a multifunctional center that would be an art space as well as a discussion platform for activists of the local community. According to them, there is no such indoor public space in Obolon district, however, there is public demand for them. According to Ivan Verbytskyi, CEDOS representative, 60 per cent of local Kyivans questioned in the framework of a survey answered that they have no places for meetings with neighbors, except for parks. At the same time, two thirds of them said they are interested in joining various civil initiatives. If the community would receive such indoor public space for meetings, multiple initiatives could be born and launched within this platform, it could host various “underground” art events. Oksana Sarzhevska-Kravchenko told about “IZOLYATSIA” experience in creating such public spaces in abandoned industrial buildings in Donetsk and in Kyiv. Leonid Maruschak, curator of Ukraine Crisis Media Center art initiative, mentioned the case of 10-day art residence in an abandoned movie theatre “Russia” in Vinnytsia.

Possible sources of funding: city budget, crowdfunding, investors or donors  

According of Ganna Svyrydenko, the first source of funding should be city budget, as “Bratislava” is a municipal property. “I will come up to the Cultural Department and “Kyivkinofilm” with initiative to discuss possibility of providing costs for “Bratislava” renovation in the city budget for 2017”, she said. The second option is attraction of investments. However, she added, there may be problems with finding an investor interested in such proposal: “I’d like to believe that charity can be a motivation, but it is more likely that investor would prefer to use this building for other purposes”.

According to Larysa Zubenko, operating company representative, appropriate renovation of “Bratislava” will be very expensive. At present no one knows the exact figure. “I suppose it can be unaffordable for us without investor participation”, she added. Sergiy Anzhyak agreed that the amount of costs required for this work may be really impressing. It sounds like city authorities prefer the idea of launching an investment competition.

“IZOLYATSIA” foundation experience has proved that there is a wide range of alternative sources, said Oksana Sarzhevska-Kravchenko. “You can hope for investments, for crowdfunding within the local community, but the latter would give little money”, she said.  One of the best options would be cooperation with various Ukrainian or international programs. However, added Ms. Sarzhevska-Kravchenko, there are little chances of receiving a big amount of money in a short time.