Big Cinema

Date 1932
Code Z1
Address náměstí Práce 2511, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Náměstí Práce (TROL 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, BUS 35, 38, 90)
GPS 49.2215861N, 17.6603756E
Monument preservation Big Cinema is a monument listed under the number ÚSKP 51094/7-8999
  • Ladislava Horňáková, František Lýdie Gahura. Projekty, realizace a sochařské dílo (kat. výstavy), Krajská galerie výtvarného umění ve Zlíně 2006
  • Iloš Crhonek, František Lydie Gahura 1891-1991, Architekt XX, 1991, s. 2
  • Pavel Novák, Zlínská architektura 1900-1950, sv. 1, druhé rozšířené vyd., Zlín 2008
  • Eduard Staša, Kronika moderní architektury Gottwaldova, Gottwaldovsko od minulosti k současnosti 6, Gottwaldov 1986, s. 151-192

One of the most prominent landmarks of náměstí Práce (Labour Square) is the Big Cinema building. It has become an integral part of the newly-formed centre of Zlín, along with other buildings initiated by Baťa, the Department Store and the Social House Hotel (now the Moscow Hotel). A simple cube of the cinema, outside of the company building template, it was intended to temporarily address the need for a cultural facility near the factory. Due to its construction, part of the road to Březnice was relocated and several company houses were demolished. According to the author of the cinema, the prominent Zlín architect František Lýdie Gahura, this building was to be dismantled, transferred and completed a few years on to close the southern front of Labour Square as part of a large planned complex of social amenity buildings. This vision, however, was not realised, just us many other intended modifications of the square were not realised.
The project of the cinema next to the hotel was originally under the control of architect Miroslav Lorenc (1930). His unpreserved plans were allegedly not acceptable to the company's management due to the high costs involved, and they decided to build a cinema according to Gahura's design. The fact that the architect imagined the building as temporary is evidenced by the choice of the structure, remarkable at the time. For the required maximum span of 33 metres and the need for easy dismantling of the building, a welded steel truss structure without auxiliary beams, designed by engineer Vtelenský, was used for the first time in Czechoslovakia. The project was the responsibility of the joint-stock company Baťa, led by the company builder Bohuslav Martinec. The Big Cinema had 2,264 permanent seats, and on its completion was the largest cinema in the country and in Central Europe. The building, with a square floor plan and a longitudinal north-south-oriented axis, had a 10–12 metres high ceiling and an area of ​​2,110 m2. The steel structure, originally left visible, had a filling of wood wool boards with external and internal plaster. After opening, the inner walls were lined with fire-resistant green jute to ensure better acoustics. Gahura took advantage of the slope of the terrain. The sloping cast concrete floor copied the terrain, saving construction costs. The spectators sat on simple wooden chairs and the space was as efficiently filled with seats as possible. However, this austere equipment also meant a reduction in user comfort. The hall was exited directly to the exterior by six double doors on either side of the building, and the entrance hall offered only very basic facilities. The construction, which began in February 1932, took seven months and the official opening ceremony took place on September 7, 1932. The total cost, including equipment and seats, reached CZK 1.2 million. The cinema had large attendances after its opening and tickets could be purchased at a vending machine. The area of the facade soon became a valuable advertising space for the Baťa company.
Since its completion, the cinema has been a vital component of the city's cultural facilities, and it has also served as a multipurpose hall. The original services in the cinema included a playroom and a restroom for the kindergarten; sports matches, concerts and theatre performances were also held there. During an air raid by Allied forces on November 22, 1944, the building was hit by three bombs and severely damaged. Though it was subsequently quickly repaired, the loadbearing structure of the building was disrupted. Following the acquisition of better quality projection technology, a number of construction changes were carried out including increasing the auditorium slope. In 1958, the most significant reconstruction of the interior of the cinema took place according to the project of the architect Karel Fišer, changing the basic layout of the interior. Internal corridors were added, giving further access to the operational facilities and the reduced auditorium. The original direct exits from the auditorium now lead to corridors. A ceiling was created using transverse folded ribs. At the same time, changing rooms were built for visitors. The walls, ceilings and columns of the main entrance were covered by mosaic tiles. In 1974, the number of seats was radically reduced to 1,100, yet the cinema remained one of the largest Czech cinemas in terms of capacity. The basic cubic shape of the cinema was gradually supplemented by extensions to the south and north sides of the building, a change necessitated by operational demands. The main entrance was extended and supplemented by a shelter, while the facade of the entrance was divided by a grid of concrete decorative panels. The colour of the facade kept changing in the course of time. In 1992, the weight of the entire roof structure was reduced. Another major change in the interior took place in 2004 when the auditorium was renovated, with new seats, a new screen, a new sound system, and a new curtain.
In 2001, the cinema was declared a listed monument. The building, originally built as a temporary structure, has served its purpose for over 80 years. Due to the damaged loadbearing structure the Big Cinema was closed on March 1, 2016. In order for the cinema to function again, a complicated reconstruction will be needed, which the city is preparing in cooperation with the monument office, architects and the management of the International Film Festival for Children and Youth. In 2019, a public architectural competition was announced, conducted in the form of a competitive dialogue. In addition to the method of reconstruction, the new content of the building is also being discussed, and the cinema will hopefully be opened again soon.