Mark Lyndon interviews Pavel Nejtek of the
Centrum Panorama, Varnsdorf, Czech Republic
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Interviewed by: Mark
Lyndon, London - in70mm.com foreign correspondent
Lyndon: - I am here in the heart of Bohemia to meet Mr Nejtek The
Magnificent Showman, and owner of the Centrum Panorama Cinema Complex, which
champions giant screen 70mm film exhibition in this part of Europe I
interviewed him through his interpreter Mr Martin Sinkmajer.
This Complex would not have been possible without the successful business,
which pioneered Neon lit advertising in Europe. How and when did the Neon
lighting company begin?
Martin Sinkmajer: - Mr Nejtek’s father established the neon lighting
advertising business in 1936. We don’t know exactly how many companies were
involved in Neon lighting at that time but he is pretty sure that his father
started Neon Lit Advertising.
ML - That developed into a company, which took over this building – The
Centrum Panorama. What were the sequence of events that led to the
acquisition of this building, leading to the restoration of a building that
was quite derelict?
MS – Since his childhood, Cinematography and Cinema Technology fascinated
him. He owned a cinema projector when he was a pupil in Primary school. He
owns it to this day.
Having completed his basic education, he continued by specialising in
electronics and focussing on cinema technology. When he was twenty years
old, he began his collection of examples of cinema technology. Parts of his
collection are here in this building. Although cinema technology was his
passion, his main job was in Czech television as an engineer of film
production. His dedication to cinema technology never wavered and he kept
his contacts with it.
In the 1990’s he restored and relaunched his father’s company and began
producing Neon Advertising. This happened when his father was still present
to witness the renaissance. He was obliged to suspend his passion for cinema
technology in order to rebuild the neon business. At the end of the last,
and the beginning of this century, he was sorely missing his first love of
cinema technology. He resolved to make a life changing decision and started
seriously thinking about renewing his interest in cinema technology.
He came across this building housing the original cinema. The building
fitted perfectly with his philosophy and his next plan – to restore it to
its former glory. Original, the cinema was designed as a 70mm panoramic film
theatre with capacity for 550 sits, and opened in the year 1971.
Unfortunately, it was in a very bad shape and the cinema had a leaking roof
with water seeping into the building. Although it was in a bad condition, he
decided to buy it and take on a full restoration. He contacted the owner of
the complex, with a determination to preserve the 70mm technology and
heritage it uniquely featured and save it from bankruptcy and total
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proposed that the entire complex and the equipment it contained should be
transferred to the ownership of Mr Nejtek. Adapting and adopting his
expertise in the Neon business and having reviewed, analysed and assessed
the installation, he came to decision to acquire it all. Now the new owner,
he formulated a business plan and drew up a budget for a complete
restoration and the whole enterprise was covered by his neon company. At the
time he was deeply immersed in neon advertising and one of his most
important clients was Tesco of Great Britain. He won an exclusive contract
with them for neon advertising.
He fought very hard to manage the neon business as well as supervise the
restoration of this cinema complex. It finally opened under the aegis of his
company Elektroneon, but kept the original name of Cinema Panorama completed
to emphasize added services as pizzeria, restaurant and cinema to a brand
new name - “Centrum Panorama”. The paramount factor in his decision to
acquire the Centrum Panorama was his strong desire and curatorial ambition
to revive and celebrate 70mm film technology. Because of the enormous
structural problems of this building, he was obliged to postpone the
project. He was determined from the outset to achieve his goal to see the
And now that the technology is fully operational, the cinema has been open
since 2005 and 70mm cinema since 2008. There was another issue to be
resolved. He decided he needed to open a fully licensed restaurant in this
complex. He had to apply for a license, it was not easy. It was clear from
the start that operating a cinema on its own could not be a going concern.
It had to be a cinema plus restaurant to be viable and balance the books.
Quite simply, the restaurant subsidises the cinema, which attracts the
clientele. A cinema alone could not make a profit in this country.
2010 was a great year for the project. The transfer of ownership was
completed. We acquired the second part of the existing complex, originally a
hotel with a dance hall. The restaurant had not been an original part of the
complex. The restaurant now occupies the original foyer of the cinema. The
area directly above us was a hotel and a ballroom. To begin with, the
building was in such a derelict condition as a result of too many openings
to the elements, that major structural work had to be done. They had to
secure the integrity of the building by constructing an entirely new roof.
Then they had to await better times to continue the restoration.
ML – Was it a difficult project?
MS – Very difficult and it still is ongoing. It was vital to resolve the
considerable structural problems that beset this building before anything
else, otherwise it would face certain demolition.
ML – It was an important cultural and heritage site?
MS – Exactly. The Centrum Panorama is still undergoing renovation in a
continuous development process.
ML – The philosophy underpinning the business model is one of continuous
For example you have recently installed a brand new and very impressive
screen from the specialist company Harkness. Now visitors will see panoramic
motion pictures on a 135m2; curved screen which has a chord, in other words
a depth, of 1,8m. Before that we updated the optical system of our cinema
projectors featuring – an upgraded high fidelity cinema sound system,
especially for magnetic sources of sound. This led to interoperability
between original and new digital cinema projectors.
MS It is a philosophy of continuous progress through continuous development.
ML – You have here a world class collection of rare and vintage film
projectors that outclasses even the Cinematheque Francaise, which I saw
MS We have. The next step in our development philosophy will be to install
an outdoor cinema for the summer season in newly acquired land adjoining
this site. Ideally, we would hope to feature 70mm projection for our outdoor
ML What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
MS – In the further future, there is space to develop a museum dedicated to
cinema technology and to revive an important part of the original function
of this building as a hotel. It is a longer term aspiration from the
financial perspective. Finance is never easy. The original intention was to
establish financial stability to provide a firm foundation for a viable
enterprise. But bear in mind that none of this would have been possible if
the main purpose had been other than conservation.
ML – Many thanks for granting this interview.
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