Vilnius – Airport Drive-Ins and Open Airs

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

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

Dainius Čiuplys (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 the 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. Čiuplys, in conversation with CULT for EuroNews, said how implementing the concept of the drive-in was a “pleasant challenge” to them because 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 to the project to demonstrate 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 cafe. 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 the country slowly eases lockdown restrictions. City mayor Remigijus Šimašius informed EuroNews that the residents of the city had welcomed the initiative with “great enthusiasm”.

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 the mandated physical distancing rules to restart operations, with seating allowed only outdoors and clients 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 where narrow, cobblestone-lined streets have very little space for outdoor seating. Vilnius hence decided to open up the public spaces in the plazas, squares, and streets for these cafes and restaurants to set up outdoor seating arrangements and conduct their operations. The mayor states that he wants businesses to “just open up, retain jobs” to “keep Vilnius alive”. Evada Šiškauskienė, head of Lithuania’s Association of Hotels, adopted the measure saying “it just came in time”, stating 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 perchance it is deemed necessary. In addition, the mayor has advocated a system that will allow people to purchase “coupons” or “vouchers” for their favorite businesses for future use. Named project Talonai, this initiative is aimed to help businesses without which the capital city will not be able to survive.


Featured Image Via Canva

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