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Interview with Pavlov, Aleksei. “Moviegoing in Leningrad and Post-Soviet St. Petersburg” (2015)

Analysis of Interview with Aleksei Pavlov.

Conducted by Olivia Wilkinson and Julia Seeley-Hall (camera and sound)  in July 2014.
Transcribed and translated by Aaron Buzek, Sherri Grierson, Lydia House, Taylor Lain, Lirsen Myrtaj, Julia Seeley-Hall and Olivia Wilkinson in Spring 2015.

Analysis written by Aaron Buzek, Sherri Grierson, Lydia House, Taylor Lain, Lirsen Myrtaj, Julia Seeley-Hall and Olivia Wilkinson in Spring 2015.

In 2014, on the fifth of July, Julia Seeley-Hall and Olivia Wilkinson interviewed Aleksei Igorevich Pavlov in St. Petersburg, Russia. Aleksei Pavlov is a professor at St. Petersburg State University’s Philology Department. He also graduated from the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs in philology. Pavlov was born and raised in St. Petersburg, although he has also lived in both Philadelphia and Seoul (2:25).

At the age of fourteen, Pavlov saw his first movie, Pirates of the Twentieth Century (dir. Boris Durov 1979), for two rubles at the theater “Festival.” Pavlov remembers the theaters that stood in nearly every small neighborhood during the Soviet era and looked crematorium buildings, complete with grey, boring walls and filled with plain, wooden chairs in an un-air-conditioned hall just big enough to hold all who came. People typically walked to these smaller, local theaters, although larger ones were located in city centers (2:42-4:09). This contrasts with Russian movie theaters today, which typically hold multiple smaller halls, each containing AC units and about seven rows of more comfortable chairs for viewers (9:02­-10:19).

Snack bars were common in Soviet theaters and movie theaters alike, though the food (like pies) and drink were much more commonplace in the latter. Movie theater repertoires were typically found on marquis similar to those seen near modern theaters, and elderly women in uniform often served as ushers (10:20­-10:36, 13:30­-13:56). Unlike regular theaters, there was no dress code in movie theaters, and movie-­goers were often seen wearing jeans, sweaters, and casual shirts (8:00-­8:21). Movies were shown in color and with sound and, while Pavlov claims that the quality paled in comparison to that of today’s films, it was good enough for Soviet citizens at the time (11:12­-11:49).

During the Soviet era, people went to the movies frequently, sometimes three to four times a week (4:32-­4:48). Among his most distinct movie­-going memories were those of the Aurora theater on Nevskii Prospekt, which showed old Soviet movies as well as new Russian ones (6:32­-7:02). Pavlov recalls that in the 1980s he liked to watch comedies and detective films. However, as Aleksei recollects except for Bollywood films, few foreign films were available during Soviet era (11:50-12:39). Pavlov claims that some films, like The Cold Summer of 1953, had problems making it to the screen, but by the time he started going to the movies, banning of films no longer occurred (13:02-­13:29). Interestingly, Pavlov relates how going to the movies with one’s family was not popular in Russia, yet he highlights how movies were often shared experiences enjoyed in groups or with a significant others as a leisure activity (4:49­-5:06, 7:20-­7:59).

The atmosphere of the theater and the movie­-going experience has changed over Pavlov’s lifetime.  He notes that in the Soviet Union people went for the sole purpose of watching a film, but today the experience is more social – going to the movies is an interactive experience (8:36-­9:01). That being said, Pavlov recalls that he rarely went to the movies alone. Going to the movie with companions —  romantic or otherwise — made it into an event, albeit one he still viewed a leisure activity (4:15, 4:55). To this day, he still views movie going as one of his favorite ways to spend time with a friend or a date, but not alone (5:20). As television grew in popularity Pavlov started going to theaters less, although to him the movies continue to offer something more in sound quality, in authenticity (without dubbing), and in the atmosphere itself (14:20­-15:16).

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