Two articles, and video:
Fire sweeps through Kiev’s oldest movie theater during LGBT movie
By Anna Dolgov, The Moscow Times, Oct. 30, 2014
A fire has swept through the oldest movie theater in Ukraine’s capital Kiev during the showing of an LGBT movie, ravaging the building in what witnesses described as a likely arson attack. None of the 100 or so people who attended the screening on the evening of Oct 29 appeared to have been injured, but the landmark movie theater, Zhovten, constructed in 1931, was badly damaged as the flames continued raging for hours, Ukrainian media reported.
The fire started during the screening of French film Les Nuits d’Ete (Summer Nights), which was showing as part of an LGBT program at the Molodist, or Youth, film festival.
Movie-goer Yevhen Zelman said on his Facebook page that the fire broke out when an unidentified man tossed an “incendiary smoke grenade” behind people sitting in back rows, adding that “it was very scary, because it was tossed right behind our backs.”
Film festival coordinator Alexei Chaschin, who attended the screening, said that the “film had been playing for 20 minutes already when people in back rows shouted: ‘Smoke!'” LB.ua news portal reported.
“We didn’t understand at once what happened,” he was quoted as saying. “We managed to quickly lead people out from this screening and from other halls in Zhovten. The first fire truck arrived quickly, others came when smoke started billowing out of the windows.”
But Zelman, the moviegoer, gave a slightly different account suggesting that the evacuation was disorganized. After noticing the smoke, “people started running out, there was, of course, a crowd, I started pulling handles on the right — emergency exits — but everything was locked shut,” he said on Facebook. He also said that cashiers and security guards told him that they did not know how to switch on a fire alarm, and when asked to use a fire extinguisher, a guard responded: “I don’t know how.”
Initial media reports cited movie-goers as saying the fire may have been started by arsonists who were outraged by the screening of the gay-themed film. Others in Ukrainian media and politics suggested a connection with a business dispute that saw the movie theater fighting to avoid eviction from its building.
A member of the Kiev municipal legislature, Ihor Lutsenko, said on his Facebook page: “There are legal battles going on over the movie theater now. It is public property, and some want to evict its current renters, who have brought this place a cult following.”
The legislature is reviewing an agreement on the movie theater’s lease, he said, adding that “everything was to be settled normally, but then — a fire.”
In the hours after the fire, Ukrainians began circulating appeals on social networks to organize a fund-raising drive to finance the movie theater’s restoration.
Heavy fire in Kiev’s oldest cinema during LGBT film, reports of smoke grenade
The oldest movie theater in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev was seriously damaged as fire swept through the historic building during the screening of an LGBT movie in a suspected arson attack.
There were no injuries reported among the 100 moviegoers, who attended the screening of the French film ‘Les Nuits d’Ete’ (Summer Nights) as part of the Molodist film festival program. However, the landmark Zhovten movie theater, which was opened back in 1931, suffered severe damage in the incident.
It took the emergency services several hours to put the fire out, with the flames completely destroying the roof of the building. The firefighters said that they had discovered three fire sources inside the movie theater.
The fire allegedly started when an unidentified man tossed an “incendiary smoke grenade” behind the back rows during the screening, movie fan Evgeny Zelman wrote on his Facebook page.
“The film had been playing for 20 minutes already when people in back rows shouted: ‘Smoke!’” Aleksey Chaschin, the festival’s coordinator, said. “We didn’t understand at once what happened,” Chaschin told the LB.ua website. “We managed to quickly lead people out from this screening and from other halls in Zhovten. The first fire truck arrived quickly. Others came when smoke started billowing out of the windows.”
But Zelman provided a completely different account of events, saying that the Zhovten evacuation was “disorganized.” As soon as the smoke appeared, “people started running out, there was, of course, a crowd, I started pulling handles on the right – emergency exits – but everything was locked shut,” he wrote.
According to the Zelmen, the cinema’s personnel had no idea how to switch on the fire alarm or use a fire extinguisher.
Initial reports in the Ukrainian media cited festival guests, who said that anti-gay activists, outraged by the contents of the movie, might be behind the arson. ‘Les Nuits d’Ete’ tells the story of a Frenchman in the 1950s, who lives a seemingly perfect life with his wife, but every weekend goes to a cabin in the forest to dress up as a woman.
There were also suggestions that the fire was connected to the legal battles around the movie theater, which is fighting hard to avoid eviction from its building in central Kiev. “It is public property, and some want to evict its current renters, who have brought this place a cult following,” Igor Lutsenko, a member of Kiev’s municipal legislature, wrote on Facebook.
Kiev mayor and former boxing champ, Vitaly Klitschko, promised that Zhovten would be rebuilt after the fire. “The arson of the premise, which became a subject of debate and legal battles in recent years, can’t be ruled out. We won’t allow Zhovten, which became a symbol of intellectual cinema among the moviegoers in the capital, to be taken away from us,” Klitschko said, as cited in Podrobnosti.ua website.