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Cinemas and film festivals

by Kraków Heritage team
Cinemas and film festivals Cinemas and film festivals
The hum of the projector in an intimate cinema hall is probably one of the most pleasant sounds we can find when discovering Krakow.

The hum of the projector in an intimate cinema hall is probably one of the most pleasant sounds we can find when discovering Krakow. An equally good idea is to be around during one of the film festivals. When is the best time to do it, and which Krakow cinemas are especially worth visiting?

The magic of the cinematograph

In 1895, when amazed Parisians witnessed the first cinematograph show in history, Krakow was a leading centre of Polish culture. The language-friendly policy of the Austrian Habsburgs attracted numerous artists and people of culture, who were not allowed creative freedom anywhere else, to the vicinity of Wawel Hill. It is therefore no wonder that just a year later in Krakow, the first demonstration of the Lumière brothers’ invention in the Polish territories was held in today’s Słowacki Theatre. That was only the beginning of the film culture in the city of Roman Polański and Wojciech Jerzy Has.

In the pre-war Krakow – a city less than half its present size – there were 15 cinemas of various kinds. From the first permanent address for a cinema, established in 1907, the so-called Edison’s Circus, to the modern Wanda Cinema created five years later in a specially built Art Nouveau structure at ul. Św. Gertrudy, to the ‘Uciecha’ created at the same time at ul. Starowiślna, cinemas were a popular place for socialising, breaking social conventions and, above all, for entertainment.

A walk around Krakow’s cinemas

Today, despite the ongoing multiplex era, VOD platforms boom, and private viewing of films at home, studio cinemas in Krakow remain active as cultural centres. Undoubtedly, the most important local address is the atmospheric art-house Cinema Under the Rams (Kino Pod Baranami, Rynek Główny 27) combining an ambitious and very rich repertoire with a central location at the Main Market Square, in a homonymous palace which has been a meeting place and one of the symbols of Krakow’s culture for years.

The offer of smaller district cinemas keeps pace with the popular ‘Rams’. They include Kino Agrafka, the favourite of students, located in the Kleparz area by the YMCA branch (ul. Krowoderska 8), with its open-air screenings on the roof terrace as an extra additional attraction in the summer season. Another one is the Kino Mikro, much loved by the residents of Krowodrza (ul. Lea 5), operating since 1959 in the modernist quarter marked by ul. Lea and Plac Inwalidów, with an unusual, archival spot to the tune of the song ‘Jak długo na Wawelu’ (As Long as on Wawel Hill) played before every screening; the cinema also has its own anthem! It is the relatively new Kino Kika in Podgórze (ul. Krasickiego 18), as well as the Kino Sfinks in the C.K. Norwid Culture Centre (Ośrodek Kultury im. C.K. Norwida, os. Górali 5), well-known to the inhabitants of the Nowa Huta district, where two unusual socialist-realist style buildings, created especially for the needs of the Świt and Światowid cinemas, have been preserved.

The list of Krakow cinemas which have soul and history is brought to completion by the Kino Kijów (al. Krasińskiego 34) with a huge hall housing 960 people, proudly hosting the most important film premieres and events in Krakow since its opening in 1967. The characteristic, modernist shape of its building, designed by Witold Cęckiewicz, as well as the beautiful mosaics by Krystyna Zgud-Strachocka and Jerzy Kowal, constitute a value in itself. For many years, it was precisely at ‘Kijów’ that children from Krakow’s schools experienced their first moments in front of the big screen.

The city of film festivals

Festivals are another hallmark of Krakow’s film culture. A welcome abundance of shows comes in spring when Mastercard OFF CAMERA takes over the city in late April and early May. The idea of organising a cyclical review of the most interesting achievements of authorial, independent feature cinema from around the world dates back to 2007, when the first edition of the festival was inaugurated. The imprints of the hands of cinema stars who were guests of the event can be admired on the Vistula River shore, at Bulwar Czerwieński.

However, the chronological seniority is held by the Krakow Film Festival, the oldest in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe (its first edition took place in 1961), focused from its very beginning on Polish and foreign documentary cinema, animation, and short films. The event, with its original, distinguishable creation, has a faithful and very close-knit audience. The late-autumn Etiuda & Anima festival, inaugurated in 1993 and dedicated to short films and animation, engaging student circles like no other, has a similar character. Krakow also hosts countless thematic film reviews, such as the Silent Film Festival.

Kraków dla kultury filmowej

Kraków Heritage
The annual competition for cultural events held in studio cinemas in the Municipality of Krakow supports such initiatives as occasional screenings, themed reviews, debates, and conferences in the spaces of Krakow’s small cinemas.
Kraków Heritage
Krakow’s major festivals receive regular support from the competition mechanisms of the Department of Culture and National Heritage: quarterly competitions as well as a competition for cyclical festival-type events, covering longer time periods.
Kraków Heritage
Information about current offer competitions conducted by the Department of Culture and National Heritage can be found here:

No, this is not all there is to say about Krakow. Heritage is an open-ended collection – it’s up to us to fill it with meaning!

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