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Summer Cinema Tuškanac in Zagreb

What should be a silent evening in the forest is disrupted by flickering lights and loud gunshots. A firm man’s voice cuts through the still night:

– All right, go out to the salt lagoons, and you’ll see twelve dead mules and three burnt wagons! They belong to me!

A group of college boys is rolling down the hill, holding their breath in suspense. If anyone notices them, they better be prepared to hit the road.  It seems the coast is clear while the man’s voice gets even more decisive:

– Well, I’m here, Mr. Waggoman, and I’m gonna stay here, and this town better get used to the idea!

The boys manage to get hold of the seats. They’re as safe as can be. Even the box office person, who is seeing the movie for the dozenth time, is so involved that he doesn’t even think of chasing possible intruders around. That’s the second time our boys are sneaking in to see The Man from Laramie. When they come to think of it, they hardly ever paid for a ticket, even though they saw so many great Western movies in the old summer cinema Tuskanac. Maybe a couple times when they came to see a movie with a sweetheart.

The boys concerned have grown up and become grandpas, while the cinema was being overgrown. Except for some devastated remains, the only thing that was left of the old cinema were those grandpas’ recollections. They’re having hard time letting go off their memories and their youth. Still, they’re fair enough to admit they almost didn’t notice when the theater got shut down, back in the seventies. It was at about the same time when a new club was opened nearby. Decorated just like saloons from their favorite Western films, with swing doors, wooden bar, horns and Wanted Dead or Alive posters all over the place. The club is still there. It changed its appearance, but it has kept its name for all these years. Anyway, our boys moved on to the Saloon, leaving the days they’d enjoyed the sneaking into the summer cinema behind.  

Years had to pass for citizens of Zagreb to notice that they were missing their open air cinema. They missed a place they could attach their loveliest memories to. The sneaking in, the dating… those were the days when seeing a film still had the power to leave impressions that could last a lifetime. Decades passed, and the cinema slowly turned into an abandoned ruin, avoided even by kids who played cowboys and Indians all over the Tuskanac forest.  

Luckily enough, the city authorities recently acknowledged that the cinema is one of many missing pieces of the town’s soul, so they invested in the reconstruction. After decades of neglect, old open air cinema in Zagreb was put into a time machine and was given its original looks, as designed by its architect Kazimir Ostrogovic. The cinema was founded in 1950’s in a park-forest called Tuskanac, only 10-15 minutes walking distance from the main city square. 

The final touches, including a ticket-office pavilion in front of the entrance, should be done by spring 2012 so the films might finally be rolling again pretty soon!

If everything goes as planned, the cinema should be hosting some of the numerous film festivals in Zagreb. We might, for example, watch the next edition of the Fantastic Zagreb Festival in the summer cinema Tuskanac. The scenery would certainly improve (or worsen) the atmosphere. Why, one of the few surrounding buildings is an early 19th century house with a three-storey tower, a suitable horror-stage itself.  

Maybe there’ll even be some room left for a James Stewart movie on the forest cinema screen, as an homage to good old days of Western films and the Man from Liamare. How about Vertigo? That could be a good enough treat for suspense loving audience of the Fantastic Zagreb Festival. Scottie and Madeline exchanging these lines would sound as if they were sharing a romantic link between the cinema and its home town:

– I hope we will, too.

– What?

– Meet again sometime.

– We have.

Oh, and I wonder how they plan to keep the kids from sneaking in…


Written by Iva Silla

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