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The Russian Movie Theater Project is an archive and a study of film exhibition in St. Petersburg during the twentieth century: a portrait of film exhibition and movie-going scene in Soviet Leningrad and Post-Soviet St. Petersburg. Inspired by recent initiatives in the Digital Humanities at William and Mary, University of Pittsburgh, and other universities, Russian Movie Theater Project hopes to serve as a lab for collaborative scholarly work for William and Mary undergraduates and faculty.

The project builds on such initiatives as Williamsburg Theater Project (led by Professor Arthur Knight) and the international initiative, the History of Moviegoing, Exhibition, and Reception (HOMER) Project. While many Western cinematic traditions are represented in the HOMER project, there is no online archive covering Russian cinema. The RMTP aims to fill that gap.

Most histories of Russian and Soviet cinema operate under the assumption that all films released were available to all citizens of Russia Soviet Union. When the films received a limited release for political reasons, researchers provide anecdotal evidence about how these films were distributed. The Russian Movie Theater Project would like to create an empirical portrait of Russians’ movie going habits and film exhibition patterns at different periods of Soviet and Russian history. For example, when and where Soviets were able to see Western films in Stalinist Russia? How did the availability of Italian, Indian, and American films changed after Stalin’s death? How does Soviet-era propaganda and post-Soviet promotion affect film distribution and film attendance?

Using computational tools, this Project examines oral history interviews, in which interviewees reconstruct their moviegoing experiences in St. Petersburg, Russia.  To see the computational module of the project click here.

Specifically, the Project analyzes

  • what moviegoers remember (films, actors, directors),
  • how they evaluate films, actors, characters,
  • how they define themsleves as narrators (I or we), and
  • what they hesitate about when they recollect their moviegoing experiences.
  • how their cinematic experiences shape their identities as Soviets, Russians, and global citizens?

Project Developers: Elena Prokhorova and Sasha Prokhorov,  George Barros, Joshua Greenfield, Hannah Hampton, John Hoskins, Bailey Orr, Daniel Sheaffer, Rachel Sims, David Woods (College of William and Mary),

Tom Elvins and Andrew Nitz (University of Pittsburgh).