This month we speak with Aida Begić-Ljevar, the manager of Cineplexx Palas in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Oskar film Banja Luka, the owner of the Palas multiplex, has been delivering films from international and local production for over 20 years to the citizens of Banja Luka. The next step in the improvement of the cinema was merging with the strongest exhibitor in the Southeast Europe, Cineplexx from Austria.Now Oskar film and Cineplexx bring to Banja Luka and surroundings an even better cinema – Cineplexx Palas, located in the very center of Banja Luka. Cineplexx Palas has seven luxurious screens with 1,100 seats and screens around 200 films annually, of European, Hollywood and local production.
FNE: What is the biggest challenge of running a cinema such as yours?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: The 1990s and the change in the structure of the population have led to the "dying" of the film culture and cinemas. All those years our main goal was to create a cinema audience as well as to keep them as permanent visitors. I truly believe we are achieving this goal and making progress day after day.
FNE: What kinds of films do you prefer to screen and why?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: Our favorite audiences are children and young people, so we have to offer variety in our programme, from animated films to super hero movies. Although, the most popular titles are local movies from countries in the region and we are doing our best to include them in our programme as much as possible.
FNE: The cinema is home to many festivals, events and film weeks. Why are these important and what do they achieve?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: Our main goal is to keep the audience interested and to constantly give them new and intriguing content. We organised countless film weeks in cooperation with the embassies of several European countries. Also throughout the years we were involved in Kratkofil - International Short Film Festival and Banjaluka International Animated Film Festival. We are proud to say that we will host Banjaluka International Animated Film Festival in 2018 again.
It's very important to us to bring European films closer to the audience, alongside of big production films. We are trying hard to bring a new audience to our cinema and to help them develop love an understanding for films that are harder to access for cinema markets.
FNE: What is the role of Europa Cinemas for cinemas such as your cinema and why is it important?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: Europa Cinemas has been supporting our work since the very beginning and we are very grateful for that. It is literally the only support we receive from any fund or organisation, not to mention the official state institutions.
FNE: How does a cinema like your serve the local community?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: We have a very good cooperation with the local community in several different ways. Our cinema is cooperating with the Academy of Dramatic Arts and the students have the possibility to show their films for free in our cinema. Also, we organise free screenings for kids with special needs and kids from the Home for Children who are without parental care.
FNE: Can you say something about your work with young audiences?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: During the school year, we organise special screenings for kids, from kindergartens to high schools. We offer them lower ticket prices in order to make it possible for as many children as possible to visit our cinema.
What about the digitalisation of cinemas? How it is affecting your work and your cinema?
Aida Begić-Ljevar: We have started digitalisation in 2009 and now we have all the screens digitalised. This made easier access to films, especially the EU films and it has brought more flexibility to our programming.