Up Outdoor Cinema (Lozenets)

On the Black Sea coast, a few kilometers from the Turkish border, the small seaside resort named Lozenets has been welcoming an ephemeral cinema for two years, the UP OUTDOOR CINEMA.

Perched on a cliff facing the Black Sea, the white dome of the UP OUTDOOR CINEMA offers a surprising sight. The structure was first conceived by the design company based in Sofia GARAGE ГАРАЖ in Bulgarian- to be rented for  events. During the summer, while the unused structure slept in the company’s premises, the members had the idea to turn it into a cinema. “We wanted to do something outside Sofia, something for us, we had these structures, we watched a movie with a friend inside the dome and we thought we should do this, a cinema in a nice place” starts Mihaela Mihaylova, director of GARAGE. It was also the occasion to address an issue “In Bulgaria, there are no movie theaters where you can watch films in comfortable conditions, have a drink and meet friends,” adds on Mihaela. Quickly the wish to settle close to the oceanfront was put forward and the project UP OUTDOOR CINEMA settled in the seaside resort of Lozenets “for the sea, the location and because we have many friends there.”

There is often a lack of reflection regarding the audience experience, how can we improve it, in terms of design, in terms of space organization, we wanted to create a relaxing place.

The success of the ephemeral place, which often has to deny access to people, has had a direct impact on the city of Lozenets that does not have a cinema. If the first year GARAGE had to pay the rental of the space, in 2015, the city hall decided to give it for free given the added value brought by the project to the city.

Built in 24 hours by a team of 5 people, the structure with a diameter of 10 meters (which also exists in a version of 5 meters and 15 meters) can accommodate up to 30 persons. The inside furniture has been specially designed, from lazy bags in the bar area to folding children seats. A special care is brought to details which is in line with a more global thinking “There is often a lack of reflection regarding the audience experience, how can we improve it, in terms of design, in terms of space organization, we wanted to create a relaxing place.” Open all day from July to early September, the cinema attracts a diversity of audience, both Bulgarian and international. “Here it’s not just about movies, you can spend time with your friends around a drink, listen to music.” The cinema also offers an Internet connection opened to its public and drinks. In exchange for a diffusion of the brand logo in front of every screenings, Heineken has supplied the beer stock for all the season, leaving the receipts of the sale to the cinema.

Being equipped with a 4k projector not reading encrypted keys (KDM), the cinema could only get access to European and independent movies. A restriction that caused no problem to the team “When we started we told ourselves we wanted this type of movies anyway.” Inexperienced in terms of exhibition, the team contacted the Sofia Film Festival which handles the programming and provides some copies, the structure handling the festival being also a film distributor in Bulgaria. During the festival, some films from the Sofia Film Festival are therefore broadcasted in parallel in the Bulgarian capital and at the UP OUTDOOR CINEMA. Movies also come from the Kinomania festival and from independent filmmakers who directly ask to the cinema to be screened. The cinema offers a selection of movies ranging from White God by Kornél Mundruczó to Two days, one night by the Dardenne brothers including Salt of the earth by Sebastião Salgado or even Wild Tales by Damián Szifón. A local surf movie festival has also taken place under the dome during two nights in partnership with the local surf school.

In the years to come, the team plans to install other domes to enlarge even more the cinematic offers. If the locations haven’t been decided yet (a forest? another beach?), the construction flexibility of the structure and its low impact on the environment allow a wide range of possibilities.

The project, born from a desire to escape, has managed to reach an economical balance for the GARAGE team. “We don’t lose money, we don’t make money, but it’s another type of advertisement for our company”, concludes Mihaela, “It has become our summer office, we work during the winter to run a cinema in the summer!”

Translation by Garance Boulet ♥