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Emptied by virus, Lithuanian airport turns into drive-in cinema

Vaidotas Beniusis

Agence France-Presse

Vilnius, Lithuania  /  Fri, May 1, 2020  /  06:09 pm
Emptied by virus, Lithuanian airport turns into drive-in cinema

People sitting in their cars watch a movie at the Autokino drive-in cinema on an airfield of the airport in Vilnius on April 29, 2020. (AFP/Petras Malukas)

Hundreds of movie fans flocked to Lithuania's main international airport on Wednesday night to a drive-in cinema created in the shadow of planes grounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of the Vilnius International Film Festival (Vilnius IFF) teamed up with the city's airport to create the Aerocinema drive-in.

They want to offer people the opportunity to go out for a movie amid the month-long coronavirus lockdown that has shuttered cinemas.

"We're offering people a new type of travel through the cinema on the airport tarmac," organizer Algirdas Ramaska told AFP, standing in front of a screen as tall as a five-storey building.

"We were dreaming about it for a while, but it could only come true after aviation virtually came to a halt," he added, referring to the flight ban imposed in mid-March in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.

Social distancing measures were in place for Wednesday's  screening of this year's Oscar-winning film, South Korea's Parasite.

Around 150 cars on the airport tarmac were parked at least two metres apart, with a maximum of two people per vehicle.

"I felt both strange and excited, when I saw the sun setting, a big screen and planes all around," movie-goer Jolita Vaitkute, 24, told AFP after the screening.

Read also: South Korea drive-in cinemas enjoy sales boom over virus fears

"We can't enjoy flights or cinema right now (under lockdown), but tonight we got both at the same time," she added.

Tickets go for 15 euros ($16) per car with proceeds going to the Vilnius IFF, which operates on a non-profit basis. 

Last year, Vilnius airport served five million passengers but it has been eerily empty since mid-March when the Baltic EU state imposed its lockdown.

Although some passenger flights will resume on May 10, Ramaska said he expected the drive-in cinema to continue operation through May as air traffic will remain low for some time.

Among the first EU members to ease lockdown restrictions, Lithuania has already reopened open-air restaurants and cafes, along with shops and libraries as infections slowed but cinemas remain closed.

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Simasius has offered cafes free use of public spaces saying he wants the capital to become "one giant outdoor cafe".

The health ministry confirmed 1,375 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 45 deaths as of Wednesday in Lithuania, a eurozone nation of 2.8 million people.

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