Karlovy Vary Governor Petr Kulhánek on “Heaven” for Filmmakers, Fans

By Chanak Maduranga

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Karlovy Vary Governor Petr Kulhánek on “Heaven” for Filmmakers, Fans
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Petr Kulhánek, the governor of the Karlovy Vary region, studied at the University of Economics in Prague with a focus on corporate economy and management. He also had two stints abroad at Foothill College in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Australian Pacific College in Sydney.

He worked at the likes of HOPI Logistic, publishing house Promenáda Vos and Hofírek Consulting, but also started a political career. In 2006, he first became a member of the Karlovy Vary City Council, from 2010 to 2018, he served as the mayor of the city of Karlovy Vary. In 2012, he also became a member of the Karlovy Vary Region council. And since 2020, he has been serving as the governor of the Karlovy Vary region.

He talked to THR‘s global business editor Georg Szalai about the cultural history of the region, refocusing it away from mining, the big Hollywood productions that have shot in the region, and his vision for the future.

You have talked about the Karlovy Vary region’s past with a big coal mining industry and refocusing it more on culture and tourism, which it gets thanks to its wonderful nature and spas. For people who are not familiar with KV, how has it changed and what do you want to change further?

The Karlovy Vary Region is currently undergoing a significant transformation away from the mining industry. Known for its natural beauty and healing springs, the spa towns have always been protected from the effects of mining. However, the Sokolov area has been heavily affected by it. Now, the region is being reclaimed, and its climate is among the cleanest in the Czech Republic. Mariánské Lázně has even been newly recognized as a climate spa, meeting very strict environmental standards.

In 2021, three of our spa sites — Karlovy Vary, Františkovy Lázně, and Mariánské Lázně — were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Great Spa Towns of Europe (GSTE). This recognition highlights the quality and importance of the spa industry and underscores our region’s significance within it. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the spa industry, especially in preventive health programs, where people are investing in their well-being.

One of our strategic projects is the Spa Research Center, which aims to study the effects of spa treatments on the human body to provide evidence-based medicine with clearly documented benefits. Our Krušné Mountains also offer relaxation for the soul and are becoming an attractive destination, thanks to the activities of the Erzgebirge Destination Agency, which we established. Thus, the region is shifting from coal mining towards tourism and culture, bringing considerable economic and social benefits.

However, Karlovy Vary itself has always been a cultural hub. In the past, it was known as the “Salons of Europe,” a place where everyone wanted to visit, and a stay at the spa was a social event. Culture has always been integral to the spa experience, evident from the existence of one of the oldest symphony orchestras in Karlovy Vary, the unique Karlovy Vary Theatre building, and many other cultural investments.

Today, one of the most important cultural events is the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), which attracts film enthusiasts and professionals from around the world. The Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra will soon be housed in the unique Císařské Lázně, where a specially built hall, which has won many awards, has been created for it. The Karlovy Vary Museum and the Karlovy Vary Art Gallery are other significant cultural institutions.

The cultural offerings are further enriched by the local club scene, various festivals (such as folklore and music festivals), porcelain festivals, the Karlovy Vary Cultural Summer, the opening of the spa season, and more.

However, the cultural vibrancy of the Karlovy Vary Region extends beyond Karlovy Vary itself. Other towns, such as Cheb, Sokolov, Mariánské Lázně, Ostrov, and many others, also serve as important cultural centers.

As part of the region’s transformation, we are also supporting new creative industries. We have a strategic [high-definition video] 4K agency project in the pipeline. We are now preparing a concept for the development of culture in the Karlovy Vary region at the regional office. I believe that this concept will show us the direction of what new activities are important for the development of the cultural sector in the Karlovy Vary Region.

Do you have a big goal or headline or slogan that summarizes your vision for KV as a region of culture? 

Not generally for culture, however, we use the name of destination for the Karlovy Vary region as the filmmakers’ and film fans’ heaven.

Does the KV region attract many international film and TV shoots? Are there any famous examples you remember? And do you have any plans to attract more productions? 

Karlovy Vary has been attracting foreign film and television productions, with one of the most famous examples being the filming of the Bond film Casino Royale or Last Holiday, Shanghai Knights and many other foreign and Czech films.

Within the Living Region Destination Agency, there is a Film Office project that is specifically aimed at supporting the film industry.

How easy or difficult is it for the KV region to compete for film and culture events and talent with Prague? 

Competition with Prague in the fields of culture and film production is a challenge. At the moment we probably can’t quite compete with Prague, but I believe that Karlovy Vary offers such a unique combination of natural beauty and historic architecture that it may be more attractive for some projects. The proximity to Prague also allows for easy accessibility and synergy between the two cities.

How important is the Karlovy Vary International Film festival to this mission of the region as a place of culture? And has the region ever estimated how much economic benefit the KVIFF brings to the region?

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is a key cultural event. It not only draws international attention to the region but also provides significant economic benefits, estimated at several hundred million crowns per year. (100 million Czech crowns are about $4.34 million)

Is culture a key way to help the region attract more Czech guests, or is the bigger idea to get more Central and Eastern European tourists and also worldwide visitors? 

Our strategy targets both Czech visitors and tourists from Europe and around the world. Cultural events play a key role in attracting these visitors and boosting the local economy. Additionally, we are starting to focus on engaging with local residents and strengthening their sense of belonging to the area. Tourism and the spa industry in the region are just one aspect of our extensive cultural offerings.

What are your key current and future initiatives for KV as a cultural region?

We are currently focused on upgrading cultural infrastructure, developing new festivals, and increasing support for local artists. In the future, we also plan to expand our cooperation with international cultural organizations. I believe the specific types of assets will be shaped by the newly emerging cultural vision for the Karlovy Vary region.

What are your favorite things to do during KVIFF?

As a cinema enthusiast and one of the founding members of the Film Club, I particularly enjoy the high-quality films, the festival’s atmosphere and meeting filmmakers and visitors from around the world. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival offers a unique opportunity to connect with people who share a passion for film and culture.

This year, for the first time, the Karlovy Vary region has its own dedicated space at the festival, called “Krajina” (Space) at Nová Louka 578 (an address near the famous Grandhotel Pupp). Here, festival visitors can experience the Karlovy Vary Region with all their senses.

Chanak Maduranga

passionate journalist behind 'USA News Now 24', dedicated to delivering timely and accurate updates on US affairs. Committed to journalistic integrity and informing audiences with credible news coverage.

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