Films can be a gripping, life-altering experience. Between the opening scene and the final role of the credits, you can be deeply transformed and leave the room a different person than you when you arrived. Maybe through the pain of a shattered heart, the achievement of an epiphany or a deeper understanding of a moment in history. Now, will all movies be like this? Unfortunately, not- Some will have painful acting and unforgivable plots holes. However, there is a cinema in Krakow that film lovers have grown to trust when sitting down in front of the big screen. This magical movie house is Kino Pod Baranami.

Housed directly on the Rynek in a magnificent 16th-century renaissance palace, entering Kino Pod Baranami requires passing beneath a monumental arch overlooked by three noble ram heads, into the central courtyard, through a set of heavy wooden doors and up an elegant spiral staircase. The charming foyer has deep blue love seats, potted plants on the window sill and framed movie posters lining the walls. The intimate film house opened in 1963 and operates on two floors with three rooms, the largest of which has 128 seats, although this is the type of place that will bring in folding chairs to accommodate a swollen audience for an awaited premiere.

Entrance to Kino Pod Baranami

The curation and programming direction of the cinema concentrates on art and foreign films, select new releases and movies responsive and relevant to particular moments in time and the lives of patrons. In addition, the film house hosts a constant flow of festivals including the two most prominent in the city: Off Camera and Krakow Film Festival. Sometimes, a series of screenings will explore the repertoire of a particular director. Beloved classics are shown on the anniversaries of their release. The options are always fresh and interesting. The effort has distinguished Kino Pod Baranami, including being the recipient of the “Best Cinema In Poland” award from the Polish Film Institute.

Films matter a great deal here and the passion for the medium drives Kino Pod Baranami’s guiding philosophy of viewing the ‘cinema as a meeting place’. This is not a commercial multiplex where banal Hollywood blockbusters wash over an audience munching on buckets of popcorn who forget what was seen the moment the lights turn on. Instead, it is a place for the community, with audiences deeply engaged and involved with the films.

“We put a great effort into programming in a way that everyone can find something interesting – among first-run films, film reviews, festivals and special events. But the film is only the beginning. Through discussions inspired by the films, guests get to know each other and us as well,” shared Ola Starmach, Community Manager at Kino Pod Baranami.

Screenings commonly concluded with extended conversations with no shortage of comments and reflections. Numerous film clubs meet to watch and talk about films around certain themes. Student nights extend deep into the evening. Moms with toddlers have a group in the morning. Seniors gather in the afternoon. And a diverse collection of viewer attends the cinema throughout the evenings and weekends.

“What is more, we are open to suggestions from the audience. We want people to feel part of the community. We listen and we try to respond with action. I guess this is why people treat Kino Pod Baranami as their second home,” added Ola.

The Kino Pod Baranami community, over 35,000 strong on facebook, is united by the slogan “Idę Do Kino” (I’m Going To The Cinema) which can be seen on tote bags throughout the city. The campaign has helped popularize and cultivate film culture in Krakow.

Non-Polish speakers will appreciate the effort undertaken by Kino Pod Baranami to have English subtitles for many of their films and can follow Polish Films In English At Kino At Pod Baranami for updates. In cafes around town, you can find a flyer with the cinema’s upcoming programming, with a symbol identifying those with English subtitles. The website is quite English friendly as well with movie descriptions and information available. Ticket prices vary according to day and time but do not exceed 25 PLN for a Friday night and can go as low as 13 PLN for a Monday afternoon.