EU supports formation of cinema clubs network in Ukraine

In order to give access to good movies to as many people as possible, in 2017, the Arthouse Traffic company established the “Kinoklub” project. A grant from the EU programme “Culture Bridges” helped to create a website with a catalogue where anyone can get a film for a non-commercial screening for free.

According to the data of the State Agency of Ukraine for Movie there are 180 cinemas in multi-million Ukraine as a whole.

It is a bit more than 500 screens. As a comparison there are about 4300 screens in Great Britain.

Only Kyiv “Zhovten” cinema is a member of the International Confederation of Arthouse Cinemas (CICAE). It means that only one of 180 positions itself as an institution the main objective of which is not a commercial profit, but development of cinematography, namely showing not mass, but so-called independent films or, as it is also called, arthouse films. 

Independent films are a genre of films aimed at a small audience. They differ from the movies of large cinema studios by a more serious and intellectual plot, acute problems, etc.

Therefore, arthouse is considered to be in opposition to the mass culture of Hollywood.

The current number and condition of the cinemas resulted in the fact that the Ukrainian audience has no shaped taste. According to the box-office records the most popular 2018 Ukrainian movies were comedies “Crazy Wedding” and “Swingers”.

However, Ukrainian independent film-making industry is also developing.

For example, in 2014 film director Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi released “Tribe”, the first film in the world that was shot without any single word, only in Ukrainian sign language, and got three awards at the Cannes festival.

Last year Ukrainian film “Donbas” by Serhii Loznytsia opened the Cannes Festival and received the award as well.

Nowadays art films are not as popular in Ukraine as in Poland, for instance, where cinema club movement is very developed.

A local library or school club is an opportunity to show films not just in large cities, but also in the remote areas where there are no cinemas.

A cinema club also means contacts, film discussions and audience development. There should be a critical number of people for whom going to the cinema is not just an entertainment but a way to get closer to the art.

Cinema clubs are also a space for building potential staff. For instance, Andrii Khalpakhchi, a general director of film festival “Molodist”, was a cinema club manager at capital cinema “Zorianyi”. I managed the cinema club at my own Donetsk National University by myself.

Therefore, the idea of Kinoklub project was in the air.

Everything started in summer 2016 when a student of one of the capital universities approached us with a request to provide films for screening. However, it is impossible to communicate with each and every club in Ukraine separately. Therefore, we thought of creating a simple unified resource for all those interested. 

This is how we started working on the pilot project, a very simple website with a short list of movies.

Any person from any place in Ukraine could get access to the movies for non-commercial screening on very simple terms:

  • Not to charge money from the visitors, advertise any trademarks during screening or sell anything;
  • Prior to the screening the organizer must show several trailers of other films that will be released in future;
  • After the screening to send photos of the event.

Otherwise, the procedure is very simple. You fill in a short questionnaire on the site and receive the film.

Immediately after the project started in January 2017, we experienced a significant demand.

In addition to the formalities with the copyrights, “Kinoklub” project has been solving the expertise problem as we select films to the Arthouse Traffic catalogue.

We look at the analogue films, observe how the audience reacted to the films of the director and try to understand if the films will be close to the Ukrainian audience or not; if people from Kyiv, Odesa or Berdiansk will come to watch it; or if a person will be able to take his/her butt from the sofa, buy a ticket and go to the cinema.

When we decided to develop the project, we found a program of the European Union “Culture Bridges” and their grant of about EUR 8000 helped a lot.

In addition, we made everything using whatever was available, during our free time from main job, and now we managed to do everything professionally. At the beginning of 2018 a full-scale site and catalogue of films appeared.

Later we got a support from the State Agency of Ukraine for Movie. For us it was a signal that Kinoklub project was not a kind of marginal movement but is treated seriously.

Today we cooperate with 412 cinema clubs in 149 places.

This is not the end of our work. We organized a number of cinema club festivals, the most popular of which is the program of festival “New Ukrainian Cinema”. These movies are shown rarely or not shown at all in the regions or they are screened only for several weeks. The programs of the British and Austrian Movies among cinema clubs are also in demand.

In general, arthouse films are not compulsorily complicated. Our catalogue has a large and diverse selection of movies for any audience. It is not a must that those cinema clubs that will show the program of “New Ukrainian Cinema” will screen Lars von Trier (Danish arthouse film director – editor).

Why do we need it?

Arthouse Traffic company has its mission – to create and spread cinema art. According to the format, we are a cinema company, but we are not limited just to making money.

We have very different projects and selling a film is just one of the ways of its spreading, while there are other ways as well.

I think that sooner or later the cinema club movement will have an impact on cinemas. If cinema-goers for whom the name of Maryna Stepanska (Ukrainian film director – award winner of Odesa International Film Festival in 2015 with a short film “Male Work”, who debuted in 2017 with full-length film “Falling”  – editor) means something are ready, then they turn into a prepared potential audience for her next movie and they will go to the cinema.

In addition, who knows maybe today’s directors of cinema clubs will become tomorrow’s directors of arthouse cinemas.


Denis Ivanov, Ukrainian cinema distributor, founder of Arthouse Traffic company and Odesa International Film Festival.

Recorded by Samira Abbasova