History of Minsk cinemas

History of Minsk cinemas

Belarusians started watching movies on a big screen at the end of the XIX century. The first cinema was opened in 1900 in Minsk. It was founded by entrepreneur Rihard Shtremer in Zakharyevskaya Street (today there is a fast food restaurant at the corner of Nezavisimosti Avenue and Lenin Street).

Tatiana Dolgach, historian,  guide:

The city government warned cinemas for many times. However, there was a fire in the cinema in 1909 and there were even 10 victims. Firefighters were on duty near all Minsk cinemas after this incident.

There was also a first-class cinema “Eden” in Zakharyevskaya Street. It’s considered to be the most fashionable one in pre-revolutionary Minsk because there were the newest facilities brought from the USA and Germany.

Cinema “Modern” at 22 Gubernatorskaya became a cult place for cinema fans in 1908 - 1909. Today there is a building here and its address is 8 Lenina Street.  The owner of the cinema, a Mr. Frumkin, also took part in making big movie.

Tatiana Dolgach:
He collected several plots about Jewishlife in north-western region of Russian Empire that were shot here, in Minsk and went shooting a fuller movie in Paris. It’s interesting to know that he managed to make a film that illustrated the life of Jewish people here, in Belarus.

Since 1909, citizens of Minsk came watching films to building No.88 where the cinema “Gigant” was. Today there is a building at the corner of 22 Nezavisimosti Avenue and Engelsa Street at this place. It was quite profitable and fashionable to get own cameras at those times. Cinema became favorite type of rest for Minsk citizens and it won people over with staginess and very cheap prices.

Cinema halls were opened even in ordinary flats and there appeared more and more e-theaters.

Tatiana Dolgach:

After the October revolution 1918 and nationalization of all cinemas there was “Krasnaya Zvezda” cinema in a new building, where a sound-film was demonstrated for the first time in Minsk.

A choral synagogue  - a real masterpiece of architecture - was at 7 Volodarskogo Street before the Gorky Drama Theatre. The cinema “Kultura” appeared here in the 1920s and there was a premiere of the first Belarusian film “Lesnaya Byl” (“The forest True Story”).

It’s interesting that mass scenes in the film were performed by real peasants. A headline “The first national film” was at the posters and in the newspapers of those times.

The District House of Officers was built in 1936. Military photos show that cinema “Soldaten-kino” was here.

Tatiana Dolgach:

During World War II, Germans built a cinema in occupied Minsk and then it was reopened under the name Pervyi (“The first”). It existed for a short time until the cinema Pobeda ("Victory") appeared in Minsk. The cinema “The first” was in a yard where there is the hotel “Minsk” today. Unfortunately, the building of this cinema did not survive.

Films were demonstrated even during the years of Nazi occupation. The cinema “Belarus” is a good example. It started working in December 1944. It’s situated in Ostrovskaya Street (today it’s called 24 Rakovskaya St.).

Tatina Dolgach:

A very small German cinema is situated in the former Zalcman synagogue. It was reopened under the name “Belarus” in 1944 after the liberation of Belarus. It was situated in this building for a long time.

Minsk citizens laughed and cried about exciting plots in “Belarus” until 1961. The old building often leaked and it bothered viewers a lot. So, “Belarus” moved to another building at Yubileinaya Square. A new story of the new cinema with the old name started at 2006.

A cinema-hall “Zorka” have been showing films here since 1952 before “Oktyabr” appeared here instead.

In the first half of the 1970s, the building was knocked down to construct a new modern cinema.

Tatiana Dolgach:

The fate of the cinemas “Letniy” and “Raduga” was disappointing and absolutely different. “Raduga” was situated in Chelyuskintsev Park and was knocked down in the 1990s because of the reconstruction of the park. “Lentiy” burnt down in May, 1975. Besides, there was an unusual cinema “Pyatyi Okean” that was situated in a real plane “Li-2” in the Gorky Park.

There were a lot of cinemas in different cultural centers - there were more then 10 of them.

One of the pavilions of the film studio “Soviet Belarus” was functioning in the 1930s in the Red Church (also known as Church of Saints Simon and Helena). A cinema hall of Cinema House was opened here in 1975. The Museum of Cinematography was situated in the highest belfry.

Tatiana Dolgach:

The church was returned to believers in 1990. There was a period when a church could be easily knocked down in order to build a modern cinema instead. When the Red Church was converted into the House of Cinema, a group of Belarusian artists made special stained-glass windows that were preserved until today.

These are just some of the Minsk cinemas of the XX century.

Some of them were rebuilt, reconstructed, opened under new names, other exempted their halls for other needs of Minsk citizens or just disappeared from the city map. But they did stay in the chronicles of Minsk forever.