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Scala will be 'repertory cinema'

Interview with Radek Pernica, the director of the newly-opened Scala university cinema.

Radek Pernica.

Radek Pernica got his previous job – at the cinema in Boskovice – thanks to his criticism of how the cinema was run during a chance meeting with its manager.

Far from receiving a negative reaction for his comments, Pernica was offered a job as the cinema's cloakroom attendant. He worked his way up to become head of an organization that came to attract as many customers as cinemas in county towns, although the population of Boskovice is only 11,500. Now Pernica has a new job – director of the newly-opened Scala university cinema.

Why were you so critical all those years ago?
I didn't like the way the cinema's programme was structured. I thought it should be far more varied and take an interest in films of higher quality. I also criticized the way the cinema presented itself on the web – either not at all, or in a way that wasn't interesting. (This was 1998, remember.) Basically it was blanket criticism from a keen new graduate of the Zlín film school.

On becoming manager of the Boskovice cinema, what did you wish to achieve?
I wanted a cinema that would operate as an open platform for film. I wanted people to have the feeling that this was their cinema, their space. I wanted people to feel an attachment to the place. I wanted to remove the sense of this being an institution, and to build a community around it.

You were doing very well in Boskovice, yet you accepted an offer to become director of the Scala cinema. Was this because your previous job was no longer a challenge for you?
I had come to feel that my work at that cinema was done – it was stable economically and technically; its existence was no longer under threat. I'd heard that Masaryk University was interested in taking over the Scala. A colleague from Prague called to tell me that he was going to Brno to take part in a discussion on the Scala's future, and he suggested that I go with him. Although in the end I was unable to attend, my colleague from the Aero cinema was there. This was the beginning of our negotiations with the university. The end result is that we are able to re-open the cinema.

You must have been very happy to be offered such a chance.
It wasn't and isn't about how happy it makes me. I came here to do a job, which is to build up a large metropolitan cinema in the centre of a city. We have reached the stage where we are about to open; I have so many duties and responsibilities that there's no time to be emotional about it.

What plans do you have for the cinema?
From the very beginning it has been clear that we would try to combine university activities with the conventional operations of a cinema. Besides, this was one of the conditions set by the City of Brno, from whom we rent the building. During the day the Scala will be used for teaching, seminars, courses and conferences, while in the evening it will work something like a typical cinema. At the moment I'm gathering the requirements of various departments of the university and trying to encourage their staff to take the Scala into account when they organize events. My second main concern is to ensure the quality of screenings.

One of the cinema's functions is to provide training for students of film studies. How will this work?
That's right, we're working on a project for students and are about to put it into practice. It is a series of screenings with added value – introductory lectures, talks, films and parts of films that are not commonly distributed. These films will always be shown at prime time on Tuesday evenings. In my view this is a very interesting project: it is great that students can be involved directly in the running of a cinema.

Is there anything like this elsewhere?
I'm not aware of anything like this elsewhere in the republic. We are trying to build a university cinema on a new model, to put something new on the map of Czech cinemas. The students will manage their project themselves and Professor Jiří Voráč and his colleagues from the Film Studies Department will insist that certain standards of film and dramaturgy are maintained. The students are responsible for all arrangements and organization, right down to the inviting of guests and the checking of tickets, with the exception of tickets sales, matters of accountancy and the actual projection, which requires a specialist.

Can you tell us what kinds of films we can expect to see at the Scala?
I'm not keen on the designation 'art cinema'; I prefer to call what we are striving for 'repertory cinema'. The dramaturgy will be diverse and imaginative. Although we will show classic films in distribution, don't expect to see Babovřesky [a 2013 popular Czech comedy currently in distribution]. If you compare the listings of regular commercial cinemas and multiplexes with ours, you'll see a big difference. And we'll do what we can to put on film festivals that either aren't held in Brno yet or else are happening at other venues in the city.