In 2020, the Cinamon cinema, which was located in Tartu's Tasku Center announced its closure. Apollo Kino signed a lease agreement to take over the vacant premises, with the view to opening its third Tartu cinema there by the end of 2021. However, as things stand the premises remain empty and a new Apollo cinema is still yet to be launched in Tartu.
Cinamon had been operating its cinema in Tartu's Tasku Center for 12 years. Its eventual closure came somewhat unexpectedly, with the company having spent €1.5 million on renovating the premises over the previous three years. In 2020, then-CEO of the Tasku Center Annika Oja said, that the decision to close the cinema had been reached by mutual agreement between the parties involved.
"When there were big changes in the cinema market in Tartu, with other cinemas entering the market in addition to Cinamon, customers expected the cinemas to be (newly) renovated. Unfortunately, (Cinamon's) renovation process took longer (than expected), customers could not wait for it and so Cinamon's financial performance started to suffer," Oja said.
At that time, Oja was unable to say what would become of the premises vacated by Cinamon, though speculation suggested that Apollo Kino would step in. And, in the end that was exactly what happened.
In July 2021, Kadri Ärm, a member of Apollo Kino's management board, confirmed that a cooperation agreement had been signed with the Tasku Center, with the plan being to open a third Apollo cinema in Tartu.
Yet, while the new Apollo cinema was expected to be launched by the end of 2021, in early 2023, the former Cinamon premises still remain unused.
"Physically the premises are empty, but for us they are not empty, in the sense that they are covered by a lease agreement. We are waiting for Apollo to build its new cinema in these premises," said Liiu Matikainen, the current CEO of the Tasku Center.
However, Matikainen was unable to say why the Apollo cinema did not open in 2021 or why the premises are still not being used.
"As landlords, we have not created any obstacles for Apollo. The reason why Apollo has delayed its initial plan to open a cinema there is something that you would really have to ask Apollo itself," said Matikainen.
Leitti Mändmets, Baltic marketing and sales manager at Apollo Kino, preferred not to comment on the situation.
In addition to Cinamon, the Ekraan cinema on Riia maantee, also closed its doors some time ago. An alternative use was found for the Ekraan building as it became a service and information center for refugees arriving in Tartu following Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. Thus, the only remaining competitor in the city to Apollo, which has cinemas in both the Lõunakeskus and Eeden shopping malls, is the Elektriteater.
Andrus Kauts, manager of Elektriteater, admitted that cinema market in the university town is certainly not as strong as it was a few years ago. However, cinema-goers in Tartu still have more choice than in most other places in Estonia.
"Today's market in Tartu is such that whoever wants to, has a lot of choices, very different ones. At the same time, our selection is certainly different from that of Apollo and is relatively small in comparison," said Kauts.
"At the time when Cinamon and Forum Cinemas were still here, there was certainly a bigger choice in terms of programming and venues, so in that sense it has been changing. But, in fact, the people of Tartu have a pretty good amount of choice," Kauts said.
Editor: Michael Cole