How no flights, corona, inaction became lights, camera, action at Vilnius Airport

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

I bring you a great story (tipped off by Chris Morriss from Concourse in Singapore) from Vilnius International Airport in Lithuania, which, inegniously though hopefully temporarily, has been converted into a drive-in cinema as COVID-19 halts most flights in and out of the country.

The facility, a world first, has been set up in an airport apron area, where planes are usually parked, unloaded, refuelled and boarded. The ‘Aerocinema – The Journey Begins’ project, which kicked off last Wednesday, at the Lithuanian gateway and runs until the end of May, is part of the Vilnius International Film Festival (Vilnius IFF).

Photo: Audrius Solominas

The previously fast-growing Vilnius International Airport has ground to a near halt due to widening international travel restrictions. This prompted the organisers of Vilnius IFF to see the downtime as an innovative opportunity to screen films while movie theatres are closed across the country.

Vilnius IFF said in a statement: “The project is a sign of support to both the aviation and movie industries, which are going through difficult times as a result of the restrictions caused by the pandemic.”

Algirdas Ramaška, General Director of Vilnius IFF, said that people are longing to travel and experience the excitement one feels at airports while waiting to embark on a new journey. Aerocinema, he said, will offer a new type of travel – through an open-air silver screen. Each week, the film program will take the audience into another continent – Europe, Asia, North and South America.

A new form of drive-in cinema gets ready for take-off. Photo: Robertas Daskevičius
Photo: Tautvydas Stukas

“We want to create a unique experience. Going out onto an airport apron, which is usually only possible to access after check-in, is an exciting experience,” says Ramaška. “I think these screenings will leave an impression on audiences that will last a lifetime.” (scroll down for more details on the project)

Showing soon at an airport near you

What movies would you show at your airport during the COVID-19 crisis?Here’s The Moodie Blog’s suggestions.

The Mask: Yes, I know, it’s too obvious. But how could you look past the fun Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz combo which saw mild-mannered bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss transformed into a manic superhero when he wears a mysterious mask? Watch the movie, wear the movie.

Picture: Wikipedia

Pandemic: Wow, did the writer of this 2016 blockbuster know what lay ahead? Pandemic is set in the near future (little did we know so near), where a virus of epic proportions has overtaken the planet. Sound familiar? Humanity is losing its grip on survival and its only hope is finding a cure, keeping the infected contained and turning a lunatic US President into a giant jar of peanut butter (Ok, I made that last bit up. You can but hope.).

Contagion: Alright, I know, this is getting a little predictable. But with a Director of the class of Steven Soderbergh and a glittering cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, I have to include the 2011 hit. It was also an eerily accurate portent of what has happened with COVID-19.

Cast Away: How could I omit the turn of the century favourite based on the true story of a FedEx employee, Chuck Noland, stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific? To help him remain sane and feel less isolated, he paints a face on a volleyball that he nicknames Wilson and begins talking to. Readers may remember my recent Blog in which I wrote about leaving Moodie Davitt HQ for the final time before lockdown commenced, putting an All Blacks rugby ball on my desk and saying “Look after the place.” It was my Wilson moment.

Anger Management: One for US President Donald Trump to watch perhaps at the drive-in cinema at Washington Dulles International Airport. It tells the tale of a man who works for a New York pet clothing store, who is angry with his manager and his girlfriend’s best friend. A misunderstanding on a flight results in him being ordered to undergo anger management. Cue hilarious performances from Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, the latter as Dr. Buddy Rydell, a practicing (and very angry) clinical psychologist.

Home Alone: The perfect movie for the many of you whose status perfectly matches the title. Is it really 30 years since the release of the much-beloved family comedy starring Macaulay Culkin as a young boy called Kevin McCallister who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for their Christmas vacation? Kevin has to contend with two hapless would-be robbers played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. And there’s only ever going to be one winner.

The Whole Nine Yards: With social distancing measures being strictly enforced all around the world, who’s to say that the current 2 metres (6ft) recommended distance from others won’t be extended to the whole nine years, title of a 2000 American black comedy? In it, a mild-mannered dentist (Matthew Perry) and his hateful wife (Rosanna Arquette) have their lives turned upside down when a famous gangster (played by Bruce Willis) moves in next door. A bit like COVID-19 arriving in the neighbourhood. Get the drill?

And of course, just about anything by Quarantino….

Up to 220 cars can fit into the screening area, allowing driver and passenger (limited to one) to watch a movie. The project’s organisers have ensured that everyone will be able to see every detail of each film, thanks to the largest screen in the Baltic States – roughly the size of a five-storey building. The sound system has been traded in for car radios, just like traditional drive-in theatres.

Photo: Robertas Daskevičius

“Implementing this project was a pleasant challenge for us – we had to transform the airport apron, which is usually a restricted area, into a space open to film lovers,” said Dainius Čiuplys, Head of Vilnius International Airport.

“We were excited to contribute to a project of this nature while also using this opportunity to demonstrate how airports can perfectly combine aviation activities with events and projects of various formats. I believe that after the drive-in cinema events, Vilnius will have more even more movie buffs and aviation lovers too.”

Photo: Tautvydas Stukas

The drive-in theatre makes it easy to follow physical distancing guidelines and other necessary security measures. Tickets will only be available online and only cars with a maximum of two people will be allowed into the screening area.

Bravo to all parties involved. Truly a stirring tale of human innovation and partnership as no flights, corona, inaction became lights, camera, action at Vilnius Airport.

The Mask: Watch the movie, wear the movie. Photo: Tautvydas Stukas
Photo: Robertas Daskevičius
Photo: Robertas Daskevičius
Photo: Audrius Solominas

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