Note: This is one of my assignments for my Travel Writing course here in Prague, where I am currently studying abroad. We were prompted to write about a historical monument, and I chose the gorgeous Kino Lucerna.
I look like I am lost. In a sea of rushing patrons eagerly running from the ticket booth to their seats, I am patiently waiting to find at least one person who speaks English. Even the woman selling the tickets appears confused by my disappointed look as I awkwardly ease away from the booth.
In the midst of trying to find just one person who can comment on the antiquated beauty of Prague’s 104 year old Kino Lucerna, Europe’s longest-running movie theatre, I realize that I am the only tourist among them. Loud, fleeting words of English come only from admirers of David Cerny’s equestrian sculpture that nefariously hangs just above the line of unfazed movie-goers.
For being placed in such a heavily-trafficked area, Kino Lucerna is able to maintain some semblance of exclusivity in who attends movies at this particular cinema. The Lucerna complex is a bustling and popular attraction for tourists with its string of stores and the famous concert hall. Around the corner from the complex is Wenceslas Square, which is peppered with fast food chains, clothing stores, and wide-eyed visitors who slowly traverse through the square with cameras and fried cheese in hand.
Entrances to the cinema itself are tucked into the sides of the complex, making the journey from the ticket booth to the theatre possible only through a series of staircases and thick curtains. After purchasing my golden ticket to view the current film showing at the cinema, I found my way to the magnificent theatre. Mixing Art Nouveau and Renaissance art, Kino Lucerna appears much more grandiose than the small theatre actually is. The intricate, golden details that surround the balcony as well as the green curtain that hangs in front of the screen are truly stunning and reminiscent of elegant European opera houses.
The seats are made of a dark wood and are upholstered with plush, peach cushions, which is a refreshing change from the grotesque burgundy cushions of the soda-soaked recliners in my hometown’s cinema. Above the screen is a lamp that is comparable to to the way a lighthouse beacons in the dark as the patrons enter the cinema with smiling faces. Along the balcony is a series of golden lamps and miniature crystal chandeliers. The cinema is devastatingly gorgeous, and it seems like a shame that so many visitors to the city are missing out on seeing the space.
“Most people are going for [more] public cinemas. This one is kind of small,” remarks Sabina Kamenska, an employee of Kino Lucerna who works in the cafe portion. Kamenska notes that the majority of visitors are actually people who are from the Czech Republic, primarily because most movies screened in the cinema are in Czech.
Since 1908, Kino Lucerna has shown movies every day, and somehow, it has maintained its loyalty to the Prague citizens by not becoming yet another tourist attraction. This hidden gem seems to attract a much older audience as well; the majority of younger visitors to the complex spend their time checking the schedule for the concert hall and glancing into the windows of the stores along the entrance-way. Maybe this is for the best. While the chaotic clutter of foreign invaders make their treks to this historical city as the weather warms up, the city is being woken up from its peaceful winter sleep. The crowds will begin to make Wenceslas Square almost unbearable to walk through, yet Kino Lucerna will remain — as it has for over 100 years — and the Czech citizens will have a bit of historical beauty to hold onto for themselves.