Visitor numbers at Czech cinemas in the first six months of this year were down a massive 1.4 million on last year’s figures. The revenue generated from tickets sales in the first half of this year was also down, from 637 million crowns (42 million USD) in 2007 to 512.3 million crowns in 2008. February was the busiest month for Czech cinemas, the Czech Union of Film Distributors said. The biggest grossing films in the country this year so far have been ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and the new Narnia film ‘Prince Caspian’.
Prague’s Lucerna Palace was evacuated on Sunday morning, when the building was flooded by a burst mains pipe. Firemen were called in to extract the water from the basement of the building at around 11:00 CET. For several hours, a section of Štěpánská ulice - the street on which the Lucerna lies - was closed. Gas and electricity supplies to the building were stopped. It is not yet known how much the damage will run to.
A report written by leading Czech scientists suggests that the radar base the US would like to see built on Czech soil could emit harmful rays. In the report, Petr Pokorný from the Czech Academy of Sciences and military analyst Stanislav Kaucký refute the government’s claims that the radar base would be absolutely safe. The report suggests that the rays emitted by the base could pose a threat to those traveling in airplanes overhead, and that there should be a 50-kilometer no-fly zone surrounding the radar. The government has already outlined a no-fly zone around the base, which the scientists call ‘dangerously’ small. The Defence Ministry has reacted to the report by saying that it disagrees with the study’s findings.
The Spanish press has reported that football club Sevilla plans to sue Czech footballer Tomas Ujfaluši, for breaching the terms of his contract with the club. This summer, the Czech defender signed to Sevilla’s rival in the Spanish league, Atletico Madrid – but only after first negotiating a contract with Seville. Ujfaluši has yet to comment on the situation.
Czech animator Jan Švankmajer and Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko both received awards at the Uherské Hradiště Summer Film School on Saturday evening. The two veteran filmmakers picked up awards for their outstanding contribution to cinema at the film school’s opening ceremony. The summer school in Uherské Hradiště is now in its 34th year. This year, the event is expected to attract thousands of visitors to South Moravia.
A march held by far-right extremists in Svitavy on Saturday passed off without incident, police said. Some 200 neo-Nazis gathered in the Eastern Bohemian town to march in protest against what they believe to be the wrongful conviction of Vlastimil Pechanec, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for stabbing a Romany man outside a club. The march lasted two hours, in the course of which no violence erupted. Over 100 policemen were drafted in to oversee the protest.
Olympic and world decathlon champion Roman Šebrle has suffered another setback in his build-up to the Beijing Olympics. On Saturday, the 33-year-old Czech was forced to pull out of a competition with a right thigh injury. Šebrle had been due to compete in a polevault event in Kutná Hora, Central Bohemia, when he suffered cramping in his leg. He told the Czech press agency ČTK that he pulled out of the event because he ‘didn’t want to risk anything’. World record holder Šebrle has been dogged by injuries this year. He suffered a left thigh problem at the world indoor championships in Valencia in March and then another injury to the same leg a month later.
Monday marks the start of the Czech Parliament’s summer break. The Upper and Lower Houses will reconvene in three weeks’ time, on August 20. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is planning on spending the next three weeks abroad and so will be replaced in his absence by Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek will also be at work during the summer recess.
The first in a new contingent of Czech troops set out for Afghanistan on Sunday. The troops are flying to Kabul to replace their colleagues at a Czech-run field hospital in the Afghan capital. One hundred and thirteen soldiers are set to be sent to the facility by the Czech military. They are expected to work there until the end of the year. Then, it is thought that the military will close down the hospital altogether. A Czech military presence is expected to remain after that time in the country’s Logar province, where the Czechs currently lead a provincial reconstruction team.
The Chinese ambassador to the Czech Republic has complained about Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s decision to wear a badge bearing the Tibetan flag at a news conference last week. Mr Topolánek wore the badge when he announced to journalists that he would be visiting this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, but not attending the Games’ opening ceremony. On Saturday, Mladá Fronta Dnes reported that the Chinese ambassador to Prague, Huo Yuzhen had lodged a formal complaint about the incident with the Czech Foreign Ministry. Last week, the Czech ambassador to China was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, to talk to officials about Mr Topolánek’s conduct. According to a Czech government spokesperson, China was concerned that Prague might have changed its political position and begun to advocate an independent Tibet. The spokesperson stressed that this was not the case.