Airport Drive-Ins and Open-Airs in Vilnius, Lithuania

With a drive-in movie theater and open-air cafes, the capital city of Lithuania is creatively tackling the norms of social distancing.

As part of project ‘Aerocinema- The Journey Begins,’ and in collaboration with the Vilnius International Film Festival, a drive-in movie screening was hosted at the Vilnius International Airport. With nearly all flights canceled following the global tourism hiatus put in place by the ongoing pandemic, for its first week, the airport was opened up to screen the Oscar-winning South Korean drama, ‘Parasite,’ on April 29, 2020. The subsequent weeks were scheduled to screen ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire,’ ‘The Handmaiden’ and ‘Corpus Christi,’ among many more.

Dainius ?iuplys (Airport Head), along with Algirdas Ramaška  (General Director of the Vilnius Film Festival) have decided to curate a “travel theme” for the movies, as an ode to the location of these screenings. Keeping in line with mandatory social distancing regulations, a total of 150 cars showed for the screening, parked 2 meters apart with a headcount of two people per vehicle.

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?iuplys, in conversation with CULT for EuroNews, said how implementing the concept of the drive-in was a “pleasant challenge” to them. For this, restricted areas of the airport had to be opened up to welcome attendees driving in. He also went on to say that the airport crew was excited to contribute, demonstrating how aviation activities of the airport could be combined with various events and projects. Finally, he also mentioned that he believes that post these drive-in movie screenings, Vilnius will have an increased number of “movie buffs” and “aviation lovers.”

Along with an airport-turned-drive-in-movie-theatre, the whole capital city of this Baltic state is set to be turned into a giant open-air café. The city authorities have allowed bars and restaurants to set up tables out in the open, free of charge, to respect the ongoing social distancing rules, as lockdown restrictions subside. City mayor Remigijus Šimašius informed EuroNews that the residents of the city welcomed the initiative with “great enthusiasm”.

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Lithuania has recorded 70 deaths and 1,678 positive cases since the beginning of the outbreak. Mayor Šimašius understands the need to provide new sources of safely regulated entertainment for consumers that have spent long weeks in quarantine.

Additionally, the country’s shops, hairdressing and beauty salons, libraries, museums, and outdoor cafes were allowed to officially reopen and operate post April 27, 2020. Indoor restaurants and cafes, however, will have to adhere to mandated physical distancing rules to restart operations. Seating regulations require clients to be placed at different tables at least two meters apart from each other, and one meter away from the pedestrian walk.

Mayor Šimašius also addressed the Old Town, stating that social distancing norms could exclude businesses in the UNESCO-listed part of the city. Namely those areas that house narrow, cobblestone-lined streets have very little space for outdoor seating. Vilnius hence decided to open up public spaces in the plazas, squares, and streets, for these cafes and restaurants to set up outdoor seating arrangements and reopen.

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The mayor states that he wants businesses to “just open up, retain jobs” to “keep Vilnius alive.” Evada Šiškauskien?, head of Lithuania’s Association of Hotels, adopted the measure saying “it just came in time.” Šiškauskien? notes that the additional space will help them accommodate more visitors without breaching security codes.

The mayor’s office reported approximately 200 cafes, bars, and restaurants having applied for permission to set up outdoors. The city has also announced that more space could be arranged as and when necessary. The mayor has further advocated a system that will allow people to purchase “coupons” or “vouchers” for their favorite businesses for future use. Titled project ‘Talonai,’ this initiative is aimed to help businesses, a notable effort to uphold the city’s thriving social scene.

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