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The “Cinema of Attractions” in Russia 1910–1917

Group of thirty-six program leaflets for silent film theaters in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Various sizes, mostly single folded leaves with [4] pp. of text, attractively set in a variety of decorative typefaces. Occasional tears; a few programs with larger nicks and losses to margins.

This collection of thirty-six advertising programs for silent film theaters in St. Petersburg/Petrograd captures the vibrant and changing film culture of pre-Revolutionary Russia. Typical for the period, the programs offer a mix of science films (Expedition of the millionaire Vanderbilt to Alaska; Life of Bees; Seaweeds), comedic sketches (featuring Max Linder), newsreels (The Turkish war, Pathé Journal of current events), travel films (Japan, Scenes of Turin, Olive groves of Sicily), as well as adventure serials and melodramas in a single evening, in the manner of a variety show. The earliest programs from 1910 still include live musical numbers with star performers in addition to the films. Film historian Tom Gunning writes: “The period from 1907 to about 1913 represents the true narrativization of the cinema, culminating in the appearance of feature films which radically revised the variety format” (The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde, p. 68). The later programs show fewer films in one evening, and emphasize narrative serials such as “Cleopatra Queen of the Nile: a tragedy in six acts” and “The Devil’s Likeness: a drama in four parts.” The later programs also focus on individual film stars such as the Italian melodrama queens Francesca Bertini and Esperia Santos, the French comedic actor Max Linder, and the domestic star of the silent period Vera Kholodnaia. Popular use of early coloring technology is evident from advertisements of “colored” films such as “Scenes of Rouen in color.”

The brochures also capture changes in film exhibition practices. Early brochures of some theaters, such as “Teatr Comic” (a subsidiary of the Pathé company), advertise home screenings, offering the possibility of exclusivity. As noted by Yuri Tsivian, “…although the luxury cinema really became established only in the mid 1910s, the modest signs of the future style were already to be seen by 1907” (Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception, p. 24). In later brochures, theaters such as “Kinematograf Rus’” advertise their “luxurious foyer” and emphasize the comfortable and attractive atmosphere of the theater interiors. Most of the programs are from centrally located theaters on Nevsky Prospect such as Kristal’ Palas, Kinemo “ARS”, Union, Khudozhestvennyi, Majestic, Teatr “Komik” (Pathé), Kinematograf “Olimpiia”, Mirazh. The programs include addresses, prices and viewing practices (removal of ladies hats etc.). With Russia’s entry into WWI, the programs announce a special war tax on all tickets, battlefield newsreels are advertised in the programing, and St. Petersburg is renamed Petrograd on playbills. A striking group documenting the early fascination with the motion picture in Russia.

Book ID: 50536

Price: $1,500.00