KHUDOZHESTVENNY (ART) CINEMA
THE ART FILM THEATER. 1909
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE FIRST FILM SCREENINGS

The Khudozhestvenny (Art) film theater presented its first film show in 1909. After analyzing film distribution in pre-revolutionary Russia and researching collections of early films from the Russian State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (RGAKFD) and the Gosfilmofond of Russia (Russian State Film Fund), we have compiled a program that reconstructs a 1909 film screening.
Film viewers of pre-revolutionary Russia watched not only new movies. Oftentimes, film theater owners bought last year’s and earlier film copies, saving money and relying on the experience of other distributors. If the films were successful with audiences, they were literally worn out because they were screened so often, since they remained in circulation for years. Therefore, our program also includes films from 1907 and 1908.

Not all countries by that time had developed the process of exporting films. For example, only since 1909 US films started to be purchased by other countries, and hypothetical viewers at the opening of the Khudozhestvenny cinema could not see them. The reviews and press announcements help us gauge the audience preferences of that era. In Russia, they watched French, Danish, and Italian films; the pre-revolutionary viewer preferred dramatic plots and a slowly unfolding narrative.
An important feature of early screenings was the observance of the hierarchy. Incidents like watching Max Linder’s comedies before the newsreels showing the Tsar’s family were unacceptable. Moreover, special instructions set a limit on the projection speed for films showing the country’s rulers. A tired projectionist was not allowed to turn the handle of the projector too quickly, since it was not possible to allow the royal procession to turn into a farce. The films in this program have been prepared to be shown at the correct speed (which is not always the case when early films are screened) and following a strict hierarchy within the program.
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Following the canon, the program opens with a series of newsreels and begins with a newsreel chronicling the life of the Tsar’s family: processions, ceremonies, and trips of His Majesty. This is followed by a gradual decrease in the seriousness of what is shown, and at the same time, the viewer’s distraction from the pressing reality, in order to create a smooth transition from the newsreels to the fiction films. The Tsar’s newsreels are followed by military maneuvers and horse races, views of European cities and ethnographic films from exotic countries.
Fiction films were traditionally lined up according to the genre: from light to complex, with a gradual increase of tragedy in the narrative. This section opens with dramas that were very popular in the Russian Empire and ends with a historical costume film.
All the pictures in the program were screened in the Russian Empire, which we can judge by the presence of original pre-revolutionary intertitles.

Arina Ranneva



NEWSREELS FROM THE RGAKFD COLLECTION

NEWSREELS FROM THE LIFE OF THE TSAR’S FAMILY
Events and ceremonies, celebrations and trips of the Tsar’s family occupied a special place in film screenings. The viewer was interested not only in the event-based, or, in modern terms, the news-related agenda of the films, but it was valuable to see the recorded moments of the lives of those whom they worshiped. Among other things, film audiences in the Russian Empire had access to the newsreels "The Ceremonial Laying of the Church of His Majesty's Consolidated Infantry Regiment and Convoy" (Apollon Association, Cameraman Aleksandr Yagelsky (?), 1909) and "A Meeting of Monarchs in Revel” (Gaumont, Cameraman Aleksandr Yagelsky (?), 1908).

MILITARY VIEWS (INSPECTIONS, PARADS, EXERCISES, RACES)
Like the parades seen live, military views shown in newsreels played two important roles: on the one hand, they demonstrated the power of the weapons and military bearing; on the other hand, impeccably arrayed troops, trained horses and the firing of guns were an aesthetic spectacle. The program includes the films “The Don Cossacks in Moscow” (Pathé, Georges Meyer, and Toppi, circa 1907) and “Cavalry Exercises at Saumur” (Pathé, 1907).

VIEWS
Scenic films or “views” were very popular with viewers of the past, since, unlike engravings and picture postcards, they offered a look at the “live” views of places in which the ordinary cinema spectator had most likely not had a chance to find him- or herself. As part of the reconstruction, viewers are presented with the films “Verona” (provisional title) (Pathé, circa 1907-1908), “Old Hamburg” (P. Thiemann and F. Reinhardt, circa 1908-1909), “Views of Vienna” (Pathé, circa 1908-1909) and "Earthquake in Sicily" (Cines and Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, circa 1908-1909).

ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMS
Everyday life, national customs, and dances of the peoples of the world were a bewitching sight for the audience at the beginning of the 20th century. After all, prior to that, the opportunity to find out how people lived in remote corners of the world had been possible only through adventure novels filled with colonial tendencies and often distorting reality. The inaccessibility of such a spectacle was what made it exotic. The program includes sketches "At the Kanaks" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), "Life and Customs of the Inhabitants of Laos" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), "Dance of a Japanese Geisha" (Pathé, 1909), "Benares, the Sacred City of the Hindus" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), “Africa. Biskra Town on the Border of the Sahara Desert”(Eclipse, circa 1908).

Arina Ranneva
Read more...
Following the canon, the program opens with a series of newsreels and begins with a newsreel chronicling the life of the Tsar’s family: processions, ceremonies, and trips of His Majesty. This is followed by a gradual decrease in the seriousness of what is shown, and at the same time, the viewer’s distraction from the pressing reality, in order to create a smooth transition from the newsreels to the fiction films. The Tsar’s newsreels are followed by military maneuvers and horse races, views of European cities and ethnographic films from exotic countries.
Fiction films were traditionally lined up according to the genre: from light to complex, with a gradual increase of tragedy in the narrative. This section opens with dramas that were very popular in the Russian Empire and ends with a historical costume film.
All the pictures in the program were screened in the Russian Empire, which we can judge by the presence of original pre-revolutionary intertitles.

Arina Ranneva



NEWSREELS FROM THE RGAKFD COLLECTION

NEWSREELS FROM THE LIFE OF THE TSAR’S FAMILY
Events and ceremonies, celebrations and trips of the Tsar’s family occupied a special place in film screenings. The viewer was interested not only in the event-based, or, in modern terms, the news-related agenda of the films, but it was valuable to see the recorded moments of the lives of those whom they worshiped. Among other things, film audiences in the Russian Empire had access to the newsreels "The Ceremonial Laying of the Church of His Majesty's Consolidated Infantry Regiment and Convoy" (Apollon Association, Cameraman Aleksandr Yagelsky (?), 1909) and "A Meeting of Monarchs in Revel” (Gaumont, Cameraman Aleksandr Yagelsky (?), 1908).

MILITARY VIEWS (INSPECTIONS, PARADS, EXERCISES, RACES)
Like the parades seen live, military views shown in newsreels played two important roles: on the one hand, they demonstrated the power of the weapons and military bearing; on the other hand, impeccably arrayed troops, trained horses and the firing of guns were an aesthetic spectacle. The program includes the films “The Don Cossacks in Moscow” (Pathé, Georges Meyer, and Toppi, circa 1907) and “Cavalry Exercises at Saumur” (Pathé, 1907).

VIEWS
Scenic films or “views” were very popular with viewers of the past, since, unlike engravings and picture postcards, they offered a look at the “live” views of places in which the ordinary cinema spectator had most likely not had a chance to find him- or herself. As part of the reconstruction, viewers are presented with the films “Verona” (provisional title) (Pathé, circa 1907-1908), “Old Hamburg” (P. Thiemann and F. Reinhardt, circa 1908-1909), “Views of Vienna” (Pathé, circa 1908-1909) and "Earthquake in Sicily" (Cines and Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, circa 1908-1909).

ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMS
Everyday life, national customs, and dances of the peoples of the world were a bewitching sight for the audience at the beginning of the 20th century. After all, prior to that, the opportunity to find out how people lived in remote corners of the world had been possible only through adventure novels filled with colonial tendencies and often distorting reality. The inaccessibility of such a spectacle was what made it exotic. The program includes sketches "At the Kanaks" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), "Life and Customs of the Inhabitants of Laos" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), "Dance of a Japanese Geisha" (Pathé, 1909), "Benares, the Sacred City of the Hindus" (Pathé, circa 1908-1909), “Africa. Biskra Town on the Border of the Sahara Desert”(Eclipse, circa 1908).

Arina Ranneva
Russian Empire, The E. Osh and A. Khanzhonkov Trading House
1908, 3 minutes
Russian Empire, The E. Osh and A. Khanzhonkov Trading house
1908, 13 minutes
Italy, Film d'Arte Italiana
1909, 17 minutes
Russian Empire, Gloria Trading House
1909, 14 minutes
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