The city of Vienna has agreed to subsidise the operation of two historic art house cinemas that were threatened with closure after they ran into financial difficulties.

The Vienna International Film Festival has been asked to take over the running of the 736 seat central Vienna Gartenbau cinema, while the Austrian Film Archive has taken over the running of the historic and architecturally important Metro Cinema. It is the first time that the city has agreed to subsidise film exhibition.

Eva Pleskow, president of the festival, hailed the move as positive step in halting the closure of historic central Vienna cinemas a number of which have closed in the past few years under the pressure of competition from the growing number of multiplexes.

"We will programme the cinema and we also plan to do a lot of promotion for the venue, but it would be impossible to operate it entirely commercially without some government subsidies," said Pleskow.

The festival plans year round screenings of art house as well as other non-mainstream films and a number of special programmes in Cupertino with other cultural institutions. The festival will cooperate closely with local distributor Stadt-Kino rather than establishing their own acquisition outfit. Planned for later this year is a special screening of Chaplain's The Great Dictator and Roberto Begini's Pinocchio.