You can watch movies in Cluj in a variety of languages. I’ve seen films here in English, French, Arabic, Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian and of course, Romanian.
Most films are in English, but I would also recommend watching some in Romanian. One of the funnest ways of getting used to a language is by watching a movie. If you learn a little basic vocabulary in a class or through an app, watching a great film is a good way to consolidate it.
Even if you don’t want to learn a language, a great film can tell a story visually. Expressive actors or animators, like those behind The Mummies film, turn film into a universal language, like music.
Having spent two years attending cinemas in Cluj, I made this list for myself, with links to the programs.
Cinema Victoria ($$)
I call Cinema Victoria “the festival cinema.” Not only do you find a lot of films at TIFF here, but also a French film festival, an Alpine film festival (documentaries on things like mountain climbing), a couple of short film festivals, and even a psychology film festival. (I think there was also an American film festival, which I found amusing because most films are American, right?)
In addition to the film festivals, it has a mix of mainstream and blockbuster films. Sometimes, filmmakers will come over to answer questions afterwards. (The languages of the questions will depend on the film).
At 11 am on a Saturday, there is usually a children’s animation (dubbed in Romanian, but that’s a great way to learn Romanian). And these are often at a discounted price.
On weekday afternoons, I have seen (and missed) classic movies like Chinatown, Band à Part, Forrest Gump, and Citizen Kane. These will usually be in their original language (often English or French) with Romanian subtitles. These used to be at one, but now they are at three.
After this classic screening, there are newer films from around the world, with a mix of mainstream and art films.
Sometimes Romanian movies have English subtitles, sometimes they won’t. Many festivals will have Romanian and English subtitles (at least from the festivals that I have been to).
There is a concession stand where you can buy popcorn, drinks, and other treats.
And the seats are comfortable, the temperature is comfortable, it is a nice cinema.
Main attraction – art films, world cinema, and classics with comfortable seats.
Cinema Arta ($$, sometimes free)
Cinema Arta is another place for classic cinema, arty films and festivals. There are also events, like a silent film day. There is a lounge, a kind of a cafe outside.
The seats are not as comfortable as Cinema Victoria, nor is the temperature, but it is not terrible either. (However, I would recommend ear plugs, sometimes the sound is so loud that you can’t hear it because it echoes in your ears). It feels more like a lecture theatre than a cinema.
There are children’s films on weekends.
Main attraction – special events (with classic films)
Cinema Florin Piersic ($)
Cinema Florin Piersic has comfortable seating. Cinema Florin Piersic is a lot like Cinema Victoria but in a different part of town. The films are generally more mainstream, and the building is larger, but it still only has one screen.
Like at Cinema Victoria, ticket prices are reasonable, and there is a nice concessions counter with a lot of space to sit around and eat popcorn in the lobby before the cinema begins. (The popcorn may not be as large as it is at multiplex cinemas, but the prices are not either).
You can find Romanian films on special occasions, plus Hollywood movies and American independents. Not as much Jurassic Park, but top directors that you probably heard of. (There is a note about 3D glasses before the movie, so they must show 3D films sometime, but I have only seen 2D films there).
It shows a wide variety of films, so there will probably be something for everyone there over the course of a week. The only flaw is that there is only one screen, so if you want to see a film, it may not be on at the time of day or on the day that you like.
Main attraction – very affordable large screen and very comfortable
Cinema City ($$$)
There are two Cinema City locations in Cluj, one is in the Vivo shopping center and the other is at Iulius Mall. Both have comfortable seating, (like Cinema Victoria and Florin Piersic, but with fairly higher prices). Both have expensive concession stands with a variety of drinks and snacks available.
Tuesday is the discount day. But there does not appear to be any discount for cinema 4DX on Tuesday.
Ticket prices are high for Cluj, especially for Cinema 4D. But if you have children who are old enough to handle it, they will probably love being attacked by a chair when they watch dinosaurs or Elvis attacking them on screen.
Children’s cartoons are normally dubbed into Romanian, and films recommended for those over 12 are normally subtitled in Romanian.
There are also some popular Romanian films here, including comedies. As these tend to be meant for older audiences, and use a lot of puns and stereotypes, some of them might not be as easy to follow if you do not speak the language. (The films here do not tend to be festival movies, so do not expect to see any subtitles in English).
Cinema City seems to be the only cinema to regularly have films in 3D. But even if you aren’t up for 3D, there are usually 2D options at Cinema City.
Main attraction – Cinema 4D. As the seats have to be larger for 4D, there are fewer spaces in the 4D screen, around 50 seats. (So it might be sold out, or it may difficult to get seats next to each other). Also, as Cinema 4D is a chain of multiplexes, it is more likely that the film you want to see will be available around the time you want to see it.
Cinema Marasti (and Cinema Dacia)
Cinema Marasti and Cinema Dacia are community cinemas. Their programs are available on their Facebook pages. Many screenings are free, most films are in Romanian or dubbed into Romanian and occasionally there is a screening in Hungarian. They have a lot of classic animations, films like Dumbo, Madagascar III, Brother Bear, or Brave. Usually these are only shown once or twice, and then perhaps again six months later.
The people who work here are less likely to speak to you in English than at the other cinemas and the screenings are least likely to be in English.
Main warning – No food or drinks allowed. There are no concession stands, and they don’t want you to bring any other food or drinks into the cinema. It is a community center, not a true cinema in the academic, French definition. (Those who like to discuss film theory and history, and who know why the Lumière Brothers invented the film and Edison didn’t, will understand what I mean).
Secondary warning – if you watch a festival film here, you will normally have to buy tickets at another venue. (or online). I was turned back from a film here because they did not sell tickets at the door. (Other venues sold tickets at the door).
Main attraction – if you want to watch a dubbed classic children’s film or Romanian classic on the big screen and can’t stand the smell of popcorn, then this is the place for you. It is a great place for locals and those who have adapted to the local culture.