Cinema Victoria, Timisoara (RO)

It’s been a while since my last cinema review, even though I’ve had many interesting visits since – for example, I was really close to writing about Schauburg Kino from Dortmund, where I stumbled into Heiko’s Welt. Or Sputnik Kino from Berlin, where I saw Khorshid and braved my way to hold the hand of a girl who initially wanted to take me out on a first date to watch a Gaspar Noé movie. Weirdo.

This time it’s serious and I’m basically picking up where I left off. After many years during which my hometown closed cinema after cinema, with only Cinema City’s two mall locations still operational, a new dawn has arrived with the (re)opening of Cinema Victoria earlier this year.

Historically, Victoria first opened in 1976 and had a good run until 2000, when it was repurposed. I actually don’t recall seeing anything in the Balcescu-based location – to be fair, I didn’t even know a cinema was ever located there, in spite of walking past it hundreds of times. Victoria has the good fortune of being the first of the four “big” Timisoara cinemas to reopen (Timis, Studio and Dacia are still in the works). This was possible after the property was regained by the local authorities, who aim to create multifunctional cultural spaces, some of which will come in handy next year, when the city takes the mantle of the European Capital of Culture.

On Friday, as part of “Les Films de Cannes à Timișoara”, I booked an e-ticket for The Triangle of Sadness – simple, no hassle, but also unassigned seating. This was a no-frills screening, but most of the other movies shown as part of the festival will have actors or filmmakers attending and taking questions. Funnily enough, it’s not something I particularly enjoy, because I prefer to live more isolated in my movie world, abiding by the sacred principle that everything that matters can and should be on screen. But that’s just me being pretentious – organizing these events is commendable and can offer insight into the process.

As far as The Triangle goes, after reading of the movie’s controversial Palme d’Or win back in May, my expectations were restrained and it proved wise to keep them so – a little bit more on that in my (almost) weekly summary next time around.

The cinema itself is in an unassuming position, with a digital board showing the current releases, more noticeable than the Cinema Victoria heading. There are limited parking spaces around, but the fairly central location allows easy access by public transport, bike or good old-fashioned walking. It’s a single screen venue, with 193 seating capacity – which proved insufficient for those wanting to watch Östlund’s satire, as people sat on office chairs, the steps and some even braved the 150 minute movie standing. Talk about commitment.

While a nice enough location, I did feel the entrance and the foyer lacked character, which is perhaps a tall order for a new cinema still looking to find its identity. My popcorn + soda routine could not be entertained either, and I don’t know if it’s because we were “festivaling” or if that’s the politics of the place. A small bar to savour drinks and ruminate pre/post movie experience would be a sweet addition in the future, even if the space is restricted.

As for some practicalities: the seats are sturdy, with a low height clearance (none at all between the last two rows, where I was sat); it struck me that the armrests were a tad high, but, as my mother always pointed out, I was probably slouching; and the screen wasn’t perfectly taut, especially on the left side. All minor complaints though, that do little to dampen the enthusiasm of finally seeing a new cinema open in Timisoara.

The long-term question in my mind is: will Victoria become a staple cinema location once more? Right now it fills a gaping void and does so successfully, with a diverse roster of movies that strays from the mainstream offered by the existing Cinema City chain. Attendance has generally been good, but there aren’t many screenings a week, which makes me think of how much work will be required to keep four arthouse cinemas chugging along in the near future.

Ideally, I hope each of them will become more than just a screen with a projector. I’ve already got something like that at home and my cat provides all the unwanted distractions of a public viewing.