Midway through an extensive research on the cinema’s history and its full revival, we are sharing parts of the story to give an idea about the life of Lumbardhi Cinema. Through these illustrations we have recreated some moments of its past.
A new cinema by the old Stone Bridge
On the appropriated site along the River Bistrica, the Social Enterprise and Cinema "Bistrica" was opened on the 1st of February 1952 to a crowd of 700 citizens. Built according to architect Jak Mazreku's project, part of the founding team was Prizren’s first projectionist, Shefki Gështenja, who was responsible for screening in Prizren’s first cinemas before World War II. The era was popular for largely featuring films about the anti-fascist struggle and westerns.
Kino Bahçe: Prizren’s first open-air cinema
In less than a decade, Kino Bistrica expanded its space by building a Garden Cinema "Kino Bahçe" and relocating its doors from the main street to side entrance via the garden. The total capacity of the two halls reached 1200 seats. Lumbardhi became one of three cinemas in the Balkans with both indoor and outdoor screens.
For over three decades, Lumbardhi Cinema was the center of the social and cultural life of the city. From martial arts to westerns, Indian movies to spaghetti-western movies, Yugoslav to other Hollywood movies. Together with the workers cinema "Kino Radnik", the institution sold over 500,000 tickets annually.
Lumbardhi - a site of festivals
The first edition of “Zambaku i Prizrenit” was held in Kino Bahçe. Not just a cinema and concert venue, Lumbardhi became a central spot for city festivals. With the increase of television viewing in cafes, the emergence of video clubs, VHS, and the decline of political cooperation in the country, the cinema experienced a serious and inevitable decrease in admissions.
Prizren - a city without a cinema
After a decade of declining program quality, attendance, and building maintenance, the cinema ceased its activity three days before the March bombings began. The venue and management couldn't operate, despite the workers collectives attempts. Its ownership was later passed to the Privatization Agency of Kosovo and Prizren ceased to have any working cinema.
DokuFest calls for Lumbardhi’s revival
The demand from citizens for reviving the cinema takes form at the the first edition of DokuFest film festival, held between September 9-11, 2002. The festival opened with "10 Minutes" by Ahmet Imamovic. DokuFest will play a pivotal role in the return of Lumbardhi.
Citizens stop the demolition of Lumbardhi
Mayor of the Municipality of Prizren announces the decision to demolish the cinema to build a new city parking lot. The Initiative for the Protection of Lumbardhi Cinema emerged during the 6th edition of DokuFest, while civil society activists in the city collected a total of 8,000 signatures protesting the decision. The cinema managed to survive.
The cinema remained without management, used as an informal pensioners club, a shelter, and a space used sporadically for DokuFest and other festivities. Between 2012-2014 it was used as a cafe and a social space under the name “Shoqëria Kulturo-Artistike”, forming a relation between a new generation and the cinema.
The Initiative protects Lumbardhi Cinema
The Kosovo Privatisation Agency decided to sell S.E. Kino Bistrica and its assets in July 2014. The protest at the opening of the 13th edition of DokuFest revived the Initiative for the Protection of Lumbardhi Cinema. 58 nonprofits led by DokuFest and EC Ma Ndryshe gathered to oppose privatisation and called for the cinema’s revival. In January 2015, following the campaign, Lumbardhi Cinema was taken off the privatisation list and was deemed a cultural heritage site.
Lumbardhi Public Again
The team behind the initiative established the Lumbardhi Foundation to continue their commitment for the full revival of the institution. Many signatory organisations and the local community became part of the process by supporting the infrastructure, the organisational development, programming and the advocacy efforts. The cinema became a meeting place for diverse groups, hosting over 300 activities by more than 70 organisations and institutions, and reclaiming its public value.