Audiences love a good underdog story, and critics love movies about the love of movies. Combine the two and you've got the story of the Zvezda Cinema in Belgrade, Serbia. As profiled by the Los Angeles Times this month, a large group of film lovers have occupied the 105-year-old theater for the past 15 months, and their tale would make for a great script.
Consider this Die Hard-esque part of the article describing the start of the lengthy sit-in, how easily it is to picture it playing out on the big screen:
Fed up at the ransacking of Serbia's arts and armed with crowbars, walkie-talkies and flashlights, a small group of still-unknown film enthusiasts broke into the Star on Nov. 21, 2014, apparently scaling a tree behind it before crawling through a ventilation shaft into the building. They broke the lock that had kept the ruined theater's doors closed to the public for nearly a decade.
Actually, go back further to how the Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas really began: with an "erotic documentary." That's the genre of film made by Belgrade University student Luka Bursac, one of the lead occupants. He attempted to book it in a local movie theater, only to find out all the cinemas that would play such a thing have been shut down.
Since November 2014, the movement has grown to 200 members, though it has also decreased in numbers since its peak momentum. They cleaned and fixed the place up some, brought in a new projector and have been screening films regularly. They even have an exclusive animated short/bumper made by Michel Gondry. Watch it below.
There is a singular villain in this tale, too. Serbian businessman and former convict Nikola Djivanovic bought up the Beograd Film chain and turned many locations into "gambling dens," with others like the Zvezda allowed to go to waste. His quotes in the article are the stuff of movie bad guys, albeit the sort you'd normally find in a Muppet movie but still pretty perfect:
"I must admit that I have no concern whatsoever for the cultural scene of Belgrade. Why should I?"
Djivanovic expressed scorn for the film buffs occupying the derelict Star. "I feel great pity for them," he said. "Imagine being an artist in Serbia. You might as well commit suicide immediately."
Perhaps Gondry could write and direct the thing. But we may all want to wait and see how the occupation plays out, whether it has a happy or sad ending, for the movie to start production.