Tuškanac Summer Cinema Fully Renovated?

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One doesn’t have to be a self-proclaimed flaneur to enjoy discovering or revisiting certain idiosyncratic and atmospheric (natural) spaces in the city one lives in, whose quality and beauty, despite their proximity, are often overlooked and forgotten. Zagreb certainly has such atmospheric natural oases, and as soon as you break through “the barrier” of the condensed facades on the north side of Zagreb’s main street – the Ilica, you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by random little gardens, parks and even amidst a real forest.

The once abandoned and derelict Tuškanac cinema is hidden among one of those forests – more precisely, within the forest in Tuškanac, just a few minutes away from the hectic, congested and busy Ilica.

A little under two years ago we covered rumors about the renovation of the summer cinema – Kazimir Ostrogović’s project from 1954, that remained derelict for years on end, covered in weeds, treetops and poison ivy. For years, prospective renovation was always pushed back and works postponed, but last summer when photos of the dynamic Zagreb mayor Bandić cavorting on various city sites went public, especially the shot of him frolicking on the summer cinema stage in the Tuškanac forest. Following that episode the media ceased to write anything about the epilogue of the summer cinema space.

However, if you venture out for a walk towards Dubravka’s put (Dubravka’s way), and climb up to the location of the most attractive open stage in the city, you’re bound to be in for quite a surprise.

You’ll encounter a completely renovated little projection house with emphasized modernist features designed by Ostrogović, a new projection wall screen of enviable dimensions as well as neatly organized wood benches as seating arrangements with small lighted wall systems successively detaching them.
If you haven’t yet visited the summer cinema Tuškanac, you’ll be instantaneously delighted with the atmospheric quality of the space itself, then probably wonder how is it possible that you haven’t seen this on the cover of any given daily, that Bandić proudly opened this evidently completed, new outdoor cinema stage and how is it that the PechaKucha team hasn’t for example already held one of their editions atop Dubravka’s way?

Yes, indeed, it seems that the summer cinema Tuškanac is waiting for its first guests. But where are they already?

Talking to Hrvoje Bakran from the Zagreb architectural studio Urbane tehnike, the author of this renovation project, we found out that such a situation, i.e., the level of realization on the photos was completed way back in November, and the answer as to why the space still wasn’t in function is unclear. Bakran adds that according to the project, a sanitary facility and a ticket booth were also supposed to be developed, for which building permits still haven’t been acquired, but he believes that the complex is fit for functional use even in its present state. (op.a. temporary portable toilets TOI TOI could be installed on the parking lot below the cinema). Architect Bakran points out that the projection house is fully equipped, floor lighting, reflectors, electricity and all other necessary technical aspects are in function, what would mean that the gigantic wall-screen could receive its first film screening today.

We tried to find out from the City Office of Strategic Planning and Development whether there’s a reason behind the fact that the cinema has been waiting for six months to screen its first movie or put on a performance, which, despite the sudden turn of weather in Zagreb, could have easily been arranged with the start of spring, or even way back in March. However, there were no answers to our emails sent last week.

The City Office for Culture, probably equally scared of any type of communication with the media, immediately distanced themselves referring us to the Comedy Theater (Kazalište Komedija) to whom this space has been “allocated”, that is, “handed over for further management.”

Mr. Niko Pavlović, the Komedija’s director, chatty by nature, and a highly enthusiastic person in view of his projects, told us it’s true that they should be the first users of the space, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been (as yet) handed over to them for full-time management.

Pavlović points out that upon “completing” the first stage of the project they checked out the space and through observations, months ago at that, explicitly told the City that certain elements necessary for normal functioning of the program entailing acting or dancing shows aren’t provided for.

Firstly, this refers to the non-existence of back stage dressing rooms and sanitary complexes for the performers, certain lighting segments, other more adequate material for on-stage performances… in addition to, as Pavlović notes, taking care of the problem of enclosing the area, access to the premises for the disabled, ticket booths and everything else that’s needed for a place like this to have a normal “life”.

Pavlović organized ‘Jarun Fest’ (along with a variation of the same at the Bundek) with the Comedy Theater, and the Tuškanac summer cinema is set to be the next location of similar music- performance-based entertainment, but the odds are against such a thing happening this summer, especially at a similar production level.  Pavlović has his hopes up for late June and early July, when several shows are set to take place nevertheless, within the context of the Zagreb summer cultural program, but dates and the program itself haven’t been confirmed as yet.

And while the City remains silent, not answering emails, the Komedija management team are gearing up to get ready to activate and integrate this atmospheric “hidden gem” within various Zagreb cultural programs, thus while waiting for this same City to start realizing all aforementioned lacking elements, the “private business owners” are active!

Hence, this “city cinema” will debut its film premiere, after countless years of stagnation, neglect and ignoring, and its renovation at long last, within the context of the Noir festival program.

The organization team of the youngest Zagreb festival, launched last year, recognized the huge potential of this fantastic outdoor space and they’ve decided to debut their movie “Headhunters” precisely at the “Dubravka Way Cinema Under the Stars”– the movie based on the best-seller by Jo Nesbø.

So while you’re waiting for the events to unfold in view of the most interesting city “cinema” space (i.e. its program and the completion of lacking elements) by the city institutions, keep May 25th in mind as the date when the big screen of Ostrogović’s cinema will see the light of the film projector following years of darkness.

Perhaps this article (and the becoming movie title “Headhunters”) will prompt the authorities to ensure that the space in Dubravka’s way will continue hosting numerous cultural events as soon as possible. We have no doubt that there’ll be no lack of visitors.


Photographs: Ivan Dorotić