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Cinema Planeta

Vytauto pr. 6-FOMA-small-6.jpeg
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Huriye Armağan Doğan

Vytautas Avenue (the street received this name in 1919, before which it was called Michailovskij prospekt, Deutscher Ringstrasse) began to take shape after 1862, when Kaunas was reached by the railway (the street connected the city with the railway station, which was still a suburb at the time). Although during the First Republic of Lithuania this street was one of the busiest in the city, until the end of the 1930s Vytautas Avenue was still paved with simple fieldstones and the condition of the street was quite poor. In 1930, when the 500th anniversary of Vytautas the Great's death was celebrated, a major overhaul of the street named after the great ruler was undertaken: pavements were built, the profile of the street was raised. After that date, the street became one of the most important streets of Kaunas.

The Planeta cinema, which is at the beginning of Vytautas Avenue, is a typical example of the modern cinema construction boom that began in the early 1960s. "The Saulė and Palydovas cinemas in Šiauliai, the repeated cinemas designed by V. Juršis in Klaipėda, Panevėžys and Druskininkai, the Vilnius and Lietuva cinemas in Vilnius, and the many other buildings that were erected in various Lithuanian cities during the decade, in a way, preserved the tradition of giving a distinctive character to the cinema building, which had been established during the years of the Stalinist socialist-realism. Often, even in repeated projects, the objects look original, their forms somewhat reminiscent of the forms created by the Russian constructivists. This was probably due not only to the popularity of this form of leisure (according to the Soviet press, in 1966, around 6 million people visited Kaunas cinemas), but also to the political significance of cinema as a propaganda tool.

The modernisation of the architectural language of cinemas in the early 1960s was influenced not only by the abandonment of the pompous forms of "socialist realism", but also by new technologies - widescreen cinema films. The first two modern, wide-screen, multiplex designs for 300 and 400-seat cinemas were drawn up at the Kaunas branch of the Urban and Rural Construction Design Institute as early as 1960. In the same year, the first wide-screen cinema "Neringa" was opened in Kaunas, in Vilijampolė (the project was prepared in 1958, arch. R. Dičius, project manager arch. J. Putna). In the context of the Soviet Union, the modernisation of the architecture of this functional type of building was given a considerable impetus by the construction of the huge 2500-seat cinema "Rosija" in Moscow (1962, architect J. Sheverdiaev and others), which was widely covered in the Soviet press.

In this context, the Planet can be seen not as exceptional, but as a characteristic sign of the times. The design, as Bielinski mentions, was typical, adapted to the site by the architect Jonas Navakas. Apart from cinemas left over from the interwar years, such as Romuva, the 800-seat Planeta was for a long time probably the most modern cinema in the city, and therefore a fairly obvious attraction. Although Neringa was built before it, followed by Ažuolynas, Dainava and a few other cinemas in the neighbourhoods, only Kaunas, designed by the same architect J. Navakas in 1972, competed more clearly with Planeta.

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