"I am glad that tickets for this theatre are not expensive..."

By By Lilit Harutyunyan
Brosse Street Journal
Tuesday, September 12 2006

Cinemas and theatres in Tbilisi are coming back to life as audiences continue to grow. But many people still have to choose whether to feed their body or soul.

There are about 30 theatres and five cinemas now operating. The average price of a ticket to the theater or cinema is about 5 lari (about $2.80). It is not expensive for people who have good salaries, but unfortunately unemployment and low salaries are a big problem for Georgians.

Bella Shonia, 23, is unemployed. She graduated from Tbilisi State University's Department of TV-Radio Journalism this year, but still can't find work.

"I like to go to movies very much, but I only go to Kolga cinema, because tickets are cheap, 1 lari (about $0.50), and because they are always showing classic films, the best films from all over the world," she said. "But other cinemas show only new and sensational films and the price of tickets are very expensive for me. Once I wanted to see the film "The Dreamers" by Bernardo Bertoluchi, but I can't pay 8-10 lari ($4.50 -$5.50), so later I went to see "The Dreamers" at Kolga cinema for one lari."

Kolga Cinema has only one hall with 150 seats. It belongs to the Union of Georgian Cinematographiers. They show only classic films, every day a different one.

"We want our young people be familiar with the best films," says Ramaz Beradze, a member of the union. "We expect no profit; that's why the price is so low."

The Union of Georgian Cinematographers is a cultural public service organization which supports the development of film production in Georgia. It has 370 members, including producers, cameramen, painters, composers and others.

"In 2002 we decided to start show films in this hall, because of lack of high quality films, also European, art house and authors' films. After Soviet Union collapse the new generation did not knew what does it mean to go to cinema, since ends of ninety's, then two cinemas Rustaweli and Amirani started to work, but they showed mainly new American films " says Deputy chairman of the union of Georgian filmmakers Archil Shubashvili.

"Movie or performances take people to another world. You have an opportunity to leave your place, relax from your real life and then look to it more easily. It's like a journey," says the dean of the Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine at the State Medical University, Ramas Sakhvarelidze.

"After the Soviet Union collapsed, the cinemas were in terrible condition in Georgia. They were like small video halls, where people could see very low quality films. But about five or six years ago, this sphere began to revive," says Irakli Chkvaidze, executive director of Rustaveli Movie, Ltd, which has operated Movie Rustaveli since 1999. According to Chkvaidze, audiences increase every year, and for the last few year it has been a profitable business.

Zurab Bagdadashvili, 22, says he receives enough salary to pay 5 or 10 lari once or maybe twice a week to see performances. "I prefer theater to cinema, but unfortunately I have no time to go to cinema as often as I want. I think the price of tickets must go up, but I also realize that for most people in Georgia even current prices are very high," he said.

Merab Tavadze, head of the Royal District Theatre, says the price for a performance should be a minimum of 50 lari ($28), but the current price is 5-10 lari for a premiere and 3-5 lari for a regular performance.

According to Tavadze, prices were determined taking into consideration the poor economic conditions and because many people simply can't pay more. Royal District Theatre is a half-governmental and half-private company, so the municipality covers most of it expenses.

"Sometime people come and ask us to let them in free, because they have no money to pay. Georgian people really like theatres. The audience has been increasing after the dark years," Tavadze says.

At Petros Adamian, Tbilisi State Armenian Dramatic Theatre tickets cost only 1 or 2 lari. It is the only State Armenian Theatre outside of Armenia. It is financed by both the Georgian and Armenian budget.
"The real price for a ticket should be much more, but people have no money to pay. That's why the prices are so low," said Armen Bayanduryan, art director of the theatre.

" I am very glad that tickets for this theatre are not expensive and that I can come here every week. It is very important for me to see performances in Armenian. I really miss my country, my language and culture, and I can communicate here," says Astghik Khachatryan, a 20-year-old student.

Nana Aghapishvili a psychologist and director of Georgian Association psycho-social support NGO Ndova, says cinemas and theatres are an efficient way to relax.

"Relaxing is very important for people," she said. "If people do not relax, they will have a syndrome of chronic tiredness. They can become annoying, aggressive, angry, and lose the capacity for work.

"We almost never go to a performance or movie alone. To go to theatre or cinema is good for people not only because they enjoy the film or performance, but also because they have one more opportunity to meet friends and afterwards discuss some interesting topics. So of course it affects people beneficially."

Copyright © 2004, Brosse Street Journal.