“Moving pictures”: The first cinemas in Moscow

January 10

On 28 December 1895, brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière hosted the first public paid screening of short films in Paris. Since then, this day is considered the official birth date of cinema. The Main Archive Directorate keeps documents on the first cinemas in the capital and the development of rules by the city authorities for establishing and maintaining cinemas.

In Moscow, the first "moving pictures" were demonstrated by French impresario Raoul Gunsbourg. On 18 (6) May 1896, a daytime trial screening of films by the Lumiere brothers was held at the Solodovnikov Theatre on Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street. It was attended by a few invited actors and media representatives.

In the evening of the same day, the first public film screening took place in the Aquarium Moscow Garden theatre at the opening of the summer season. However, it coincided with the celebration of the birthday of future Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow, and there were active preparations for the coronation. Therefore, both film screenings went unnoticed by most people.

In December 1897, the Electric Theatre was opened in the Upper Shopping Arcade (GUM) on Red Square. It became the first cinema in Moscow. There were many people, despite the high cost of the tickets. The regular screenings consisted of several short films, showed every 90 minutes every day from 2 pm to 11 pm. Screenings were interrupted for the technician to rewind the film reels. The audience could take a break from the annoying effects of a blinking screen and the crackling of the projector and listen to music. Electric Theatre was open for the winter and spring, and on 31 May, it closed for the summer, like all Moscow theatres.

By the end of the 19th century, cinema was still rare in Moscow, shown only for a short time in city gardens, theatres, circuses or at exhibitions, and then disappearing again from the cultural life of the city. However, in 1904, the number of cinemas, called illusions, bioscopes and biographs at that time, began to increase rapidly.

Russia did not have its own cinematography until 1908. The owners of cinemas had to travel frequently to Europe or America to buy new films. Many of them later became film producers, for example, Alexander Khanzhonkov, Iosif Yermolayev, Robert Persky and others.

The first Moscow cinema to have its own building was the Khudozhestvenny (Artistic) Cinema. It was opened by entrepreneur Albert Broksch, manager of the Varvarinsky company of homeowners. He owned land on Arbat Square, where the cinema is located. The first show took place on 11 November 1909, and 400 people watched the premiere of the French drama Georgette. In 2020, a comprehensive reconstruction of the cinema building was completed.

It was quite difficult to open a cinema. Their activities were strictly regulated. The most important requirement was to obtain permission from the Moscow Mayor.

In May 1911, Minister of Internal Affairs Pyotr Stolypin signed the Normal Rules for the Establishment and Maintenance of Cinematic Theatres. Moscow used the rules as a basis, but preferred its own more strict rules. In a slightly modified form, some of these rules are still in force.


Source: mos.ru

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