Zagreb has, alongside its share of plush multiplex cinemas, retained a fair number of old-fashioned picture houses that will delight nostalgia freaks as well as fans of European art cinema and other non-mainstream genres. Even better than that, a welcome side effect of the past couple of years of recession has been a revival of cinema-going, with a brace of rather unique new cinemas opening in these crisis-stricken years. If you don't happen to speak Croatian, the good news is that almost all films are subtitled, not dubbed, so you'll be able to follow the action if you understand the original language.
The first cinema screening more or less as we know it in Zagreb took place in 1896, advertised by the slogan “Living pictures shown here!” Those famous pictures of a locomotive steaming full tilt towards the audience were shown to the dismay of much of the audience, who were then cheered up by a tableau depicting a row between a husband and wife, with the latter robustly administering a broom to the rump of the former to the general delight of the audience. Early public screenings were usually held in the open air or in circus-tents. In 1906 Zagreb got its first permanent cinema, at the spot where the city’s Hotel Dubrovnik now stands.
The next cinema to open, in the same year, was today’s Kino Europa, then called the Cyril and Methodius Bioscope. Then cinemas started popping up like mushrooms all over the city. Some of them are still in use today: for example, Kino Tuškanac, then called the Olimp, also opened in the early part of the 20th century; and Kino Zagreb stands on the site where a former cinema, Kino Metropol, was demolished in 1931.
As in most modern cities many old picture houses have closed down without trace, but in some cases the buildings have been saved and continue to be used for cultural purposes thanks to their unique design, which makes them ideal for use as theatres. So in the former Helios you’ll now find the Gavella drama theatre, while the Apolo, later known as Kino Croatia, is now the Kerempuh satirical theatre.
If you fancy sampling what the wonderful world of Zagreb cinema has to offer today, here’s what you’ll find where.