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Over 30,000 people are estimated to attend open air film festival in Barcelona this summer

The 12th Edition of Sala Montjuïc, an open air film festival which takes place every summer in Barcelona, is in full swing, and organisers estimate that over 30,000 people will have attended the event by the end of its five week running period. The festival runs from the 6th of July to the 8th of August and hosts evenings of live music, short films and feature length movies three times a week. An average of 2,000 spectators a night attend the screenings, which are located next to an old military castle on Montjuïc, a small hill facing Barcelona's harbour. Families can rent deckchairs, bring food and drink and enjoy watching the film whilst seated on the lawn alongside the castle's wall, in what used to be the ancient moat. This year one of the highlights included a special screening of the 1927 German classic Metropolis on the 18th of July which was accompanied by a live jazz band.

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31 July 2014 05:40 PM

by

Rebecca Lock

Barcelona (ACN).- The 12th Edition of Sala Montjuïc, an open air film festival which takes place every summer in Barcelona, is in full swing, and organisers estimate that over 30,000 people will have attended the event by the end of its five week running period. The festival runs from the 6th of July to the 8th of August and hosts evenings of live music, short films and feature length movies three times a week. An average of 2,000 spectators a night attend the screenings, which cost €6 a night and are located next to an old military castle on Montjuïc, a small hill which offers spectacular views over the city of Barcelona and its sea port. Families can rent deckchairs, bring food and drink and enjoy watching the film whilst seated on the lawn alongside a huge castle wall, in what used to be the ancient moat. When asked to explain the specific attraction of this festival, Mireia Manén, Co-Director of Sala Montjuïc, commented that "these days seeing a film on a screen of nearly 180 square metres is something unusual and spectacular. The fact there are 2,000 people watching the same film also has something magical about it. There is a real community spirit". This year one of the highlights included a special concert-screening of the 1927 German classic Metropolis on the 18th of July, in which a live jazz band, headed by famous American trumpet player Thad Wilson, played an original soundtrack alongside the projected film.


Sala Montjuïc's film programme includes a mixture of classic cinema, Hollywood hits and independent titles from all over the world. When asked about the film selection process Manén explained that there was no specific theme which united the films in the programme, rather they were selected to represent a good balance between blockbusters and low-budget cinema, well known and independent titles and a wide range of genres and nationalities for a variety of audiences.

The Co-Director of the festival also commented that the films were selected with the event's location in mind and "there are some great films which are more appropriate to be viewed at home or in a closed cinema, and there are some films which work much better on a big screen in a setting such as Montjuïc".

 This year, one example of such a film was a lively screening of Grease, after which one spectator commented, "It was a really cool atmosphere. Everyone was really into the movie, singing along and having fun. What a great way to watch the film!"

Not just about the movies

Sala Montjuïc also includes live concerts before every film, which cover a wide range of music; from jazz to pop and swing and even a Beatles cover band. The festival also screens also eight short films, a mixture of works from award winning directors and up-and-coming filmmakers, which are projected before some of the main features.

Furthermore, Sala Montjuïc is running a film competition named ´micro-makes´ for the second year, in which budding filmmakers are encouraged to submit their own remakes of famous scenes from classic cinema. The three best scenes will be screened on the final day of the festival, the 8th of August, when the audience will have the opportunity to choose a winner, who will be awarded a free enrolment to an MA course in Film History at the Barcelonan film school Estudiodecine, amongst other prizes.

The festival also offers three free master classes based upon the films shown at the festival which are run by Màrius Rubio, a Professor at Estudiodecine. This year, the festival has also introduced a ´value pack´ in which audience members can go on a guided tour of Montjuïc castle before the film screening for a price of €10, which the organisers say is proving to be very popular.

This castle used to be a military museum until a few years ago. The fortress had been part of some of the darkest episodes in Barcelona's history: Catalonia's President Lluís Companys was executed there by the Franco dictatorship a year after the Civil War ended. In addition, the Spanish Army used Montjuic castle to bombard the city of Barcelona and its inhabitants on several occasions during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was also used as a jail and torture centre for political prisoners in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2008, the Spanish Defence Ministry handed over the military fortress to Barcelona City Council, who removed the equestrian statue of Franco that was still in the castle's courtyard, and decided to transform the venue into a space promoting peace and hosting cultural activities.

A mixed crowd

When asked about the type of audience that usually attend Sala Montjuïc, the Co-Director of the festival commented, "we have always maintained a good balance between the local public from Barcelona and the surrounding areas, and the foreign visitors, who are usually temporary residents in the city." She explained that passing tourists occasionally attend the event, but only make up 10% of the total ticket sales.

For example, three work colleagues from Barcelona – Nina, Marta and Noelia – mentioned that they had known about the festival for a number of years, but this is the first time they had decided to attend. Noelia commented that the festival was "the perfect event for the summer".

Swiss student, Simon Meier, agreed, commenting that "it's a unique idea and a great atmosphere. People are more relaxed here than in a normal cinema as everyone can just bring their own food and drink and enjoy the film. It changes the whole viewing experience".

The event's Co-Director highlighted that the average age of the audience was 28-30, although all ages could be found enjoying the event. Even so, she mentioned that an objective of the organisers was to attract more young people in future editions.

Impressive viewing figures

This year, the festival's organisers estimate that the viewing figures will reach over 30,000 by the end of the five week festival. Although the attendee rate varies depending on the specific screening, it usually averages at an impressive 2,000 people per night.

Manén explained that, curiously, this figure has remained more or less constant since the festival began 12 years ago, but the overall viewing figures have continued to rise due to the increased number of films being screened in each edition.  For example, when the festival began it only contained 6 screenings of feature films, whereas this year there are 16 such films on the programme. The Co-Director mentioned, "we are very happy [with the attendee rate]. We do not want to grow any more, rather we want to focus on maintaining these viewing figures and taking good care of our audience".

One regular visitor to the festival, Carlos Mendoza, attributes the growing success of the event to the relaxed setting in the warm Barcelonan nights.  "It's always a nice atmosphere and so cheap. It's great that more people want to come along", he said.

Special screening of Metropolis wows audiences

A highlight for many audience members this year was a screening of the German silent movie, Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927), which was accompanied by a live jazz band, led by the famous American trumpet player, Thad Wilson. The US artist mentioned that he loves coming to Barcelona, which is his "favourite city in Europe". Wilson has been interested in composing film scores for silent movies for over 15 years, although he admitted that this was the first time that he had tackled Metropolis. "It's a powerful movie", he said before the concert, "and I'm hoping that my contribution helps tell the story a little deeper". He went on to explain, "if you check out Metropolis there are so many timeless elements you can relate to now. This is what I'm hoping to bring out with my music".

After the concert, Russian teacher Anastasia remarked, "I loved it. When you watch the film at the same time as hearing the live music it becomes more emotional. It is one of my favourite films, but having the jazz soundtrack changed the experience and I felt like I understood even more about the movie".

Manén also said that the evening "was a great success". She commented, "the fact that over 2,000 people came to see a German, silent, expressionist film made in the 1920s is something that justifies our work."

Self-sufficient financing

The majority of the festival is financed by ticket sales, which cost €6 a night, as well as contributions from the festival's sponsors, such as the Catalan beer company Damm. The organisers of the festival mentioned that they also receive a grant from Barcelona City Council. However this grant only makes up 5% of the overall budget and the collaboration is mainly used to secure the public space each year, which is owned by the council.

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  • The open air festival takes place in the old Montjuic castle's moat (by Rebecca Lock)

  • US jazz trumpeter Thad Wilson in the Sala Montjuic festival (by Rebecca Lock)

  • Nina, Marta and Noelia attended the Sala Montjuic cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)

  • 'Metropolis' was shown at the Sala Montjuic open air cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)

  • A relaxed atmosphere in Barcelona's Sala Montjuic open air cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)

  • The open air festival takes place in the old Montjuic castle's moat (by Rebecca Lock)
  • US jazz trumpeter Thad Wilson in the Sala Montjuic festival (by Rebecca Lock)
  • Nina, Marta and Noelia attended the Sala Montjuic cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)
  • 'Metropolis' was shown at the Sala Montjuic open air cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)
  • A relaxed atmosphere in Barcelona's Sala Montjuic open air cinema festival (by Rebecca Lock)