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Kino Laika, located in Karkkila, Finland, is a unique cinema founded by acclaimed Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki and his collaborator Mika Lätti. It stands as a testament to their love for movies, dogs, and their desire to give back to their community.
Before the establishment of Kino Laika, the town of Karkkila, with a population of 9,000, lacked a local cinema. Residents had to travel to neighboring towns or Helsinki to watch movies. Kaurismäki, who has lived in Karkkila for 38 years, and Lätti decided to change that and provide the town with its own cinema.
Kino Laika is housed in an old factory hall and is open to everyone, including the workers from the nearby foundry. The cinema even has a happy hour on Fridays with cheap beer from 2-4 p.m., attracting both locals and those from Helsinki.
What makes Kino Laika truly special is its dog-friendly policy. It’s named after the famous Soviet space dog Laika and features images of Kaurismäki’s own dogs on its walls. Dogs are not only welcome but also receive special treatment, including non-alcoholic beer served in Laika bowls. This makes Kino Laika possibly the most dog-friendly cinema in the world.
Kino Laika has become a gathering place for both locals and outsiders. Filmmakers from Karkkila and beyond, like Mia Halme, Heikki Kujanpää, Aleksi Salmenperä, and Mikko Myllylahti, have found a second home in the cinema. Aki Kaurismäki, in particular, finds it easier to be in Karkkila than in Helsinki, where he is a recognizable figure. People sometimes play the “Kaurismäki-spotting” game, and even Japanese superfans once witnessed him in the act of pouring himself a beer.
The cinema has become an important cultural hub in the Finnish countryside, defying the n
otion that arthouse-focused cinemas can only thrive in big cities. It offers a genuine cinema experience that people still crave, especially in the age of streaming.
Kino Laika’s future plans include hosting a mini-festival in collaboration with Kaurismäki’s Midnight Sun Film Festival, along with music gigs and the possibility of adding a second screening room. However, their commitment to cinema remains unwavering, with film screenings continuing to take center stage. For instance, Kaurismäki’s latest film, “Fallen Leaves,” has enjoyed sold-out screenings and was selected as Finland’s Oscar submission.
In essence, Kino Laika is not just a cinema; it’s a labor of love and a symbol of the deep connection between cinema, community, and even canine companions in the heart of the Finnish countryside.