Along the small fashionable cobbled street next to in downtown Kochi, a small photogenic movie theatre stands. The entrance with light bulb light looks like a western theatre. People walking in front of it stop sometimes and see the signboard of the film showing. Some of them find something interesting, they walk to a ticket shop.
“We have paid particular attention to the exterior because we think that SNS takes people here.” Tomomi Uga, a manager of the theatre, smiled. “Some people actually stop and ask us what this is.”
In October last year, a little art house cinema was born on a small shopping street in Kochi. The name is Weekend Kinema M. It gives opportunities to be exposed to urban culture in Kochi downtown. It is for only limited time, and it is going to close at the end of this year.
It shows not movies that appeal to the public, but movies themed of social problem and art movies. In April, it showed “The other side of hope.” The film directed by Aki Kaurismäki, one of the famous Finnish director. The theme was a refugee problem. A Finnish man met a Syrian man who gets away from civil war. They would help one another and established a good relationship. However, the movie also portrays the coldness of society to refugee. It is not a big hit movie, but essential as a chance to think about the social problem.
In the 1950’s, the golden age of the movie industry, there were 32 movie theatres in Kochi. However, the number has been started to decrease after the birth of the cinema complex. Today, we have only two art-house cinemas in Kochi.
“Kochi is a prefecture which has a problem of aging,” Tomomi explained. “We would like to get elderly people involved in making Kochi more active with the movie because they lived in the golden age of the movie industry. On the other hand, it is new for young people. We hope they think it is interesting and come to the shopping street.”
The little theatre has a small gallery. It has exhibitions of local artists and events to be able to experience the artwork. They had an exhibit of Hamada washi, local Japanese paper. The artist is working actively worldwide, but local people do not know about it well.
“We would like to tell the local artwork because it is too bad that local people do not know about local artist’s success,” Tomomi said. “Also, we would like to show something special which people cannot see it in other. We plan an event of the gallery every month to attract people. We hope people come here with various opportunity.”
After the birth of the cinema complex, an image of cinema has changed. Theatres have been included in shopping malls as one of the institutions. As a result, watching movies became one of amusement of shopping mall. People go to the cinema on their way to the shopping mall.
Therefore, it is hard work to manage a little art house cinema.
“We need to do not only showing movies but something new. We need to plan something fun to attract people.”
They have had many events such as greeting by a film director and actors at the cinema. In June, they showed a movie directed by Momoko Ando who is a film director and a producer of this theatre. They also had a greeting event by her and actors who played on the movie.
“It is natural to make audiences fun, but we would like to make actors enjoy too.”
Also, they have events which in collaboration with a small market of downtown.
Tomomi does not have a negative image of the cinema complex.
“I think cinema complex is a cooperator to increase movie fan. I hope we run theaters hard by competing. Consequently, various kind of movies would be shown in Kochi.”
Unfortunately, the great cinema is going to close at the end of this year because the building is going to pull down. Local people will miss it. However, they might have a new plan for the art house cinema. They did not tell about it correctly, but the theatre might not be going to disappear.
“We would like to give a boost to not only a shopping street but also the whole of Kochi. We will try to do something to make a constant flow of people in Kochi.”