No. 80 (1): Parisiana
Parisiana Film Theater
The theater was located through a giant archway in the wing of the main building located in the courtyard. Originally, stables for horses and carriage houses occupied the wing. June 19, 1913, the city authorities gave permission to remodel the building on Nevsky 80 using the design of the well-known Petersburg architect Marian Lialevich. The project included a new three-storey stone building and basement for the movie theater – to replace the old wing. The permit cost 72 rubles. Work on the building began soon after and was finished in 1914, with Parisiana opening its doors in January. Its entrance decorated by columns and a brightly lit marquis attracted Petersburg’s fashionable filmgoers, who were fascinated by the new moving pictures. The Bulla photograph that you see is from 1915. The title of the film showing at the theater is Life’s Dream (Greza zhizni). Yuri Tsivian writes that it was the fanciest picture-house in Petersburg.
In Speak Memory, Nabokov remembers going to Parisiana (as well as Piccadilly, also on Nevsky) with his first love Valentina Shulgina in 1915 and 1916. More than 30 years later he returns to her memory in “The Admiralty Spire.” It is structured as an irate letter to a bad novelist whom he doesn’t know, yet who – quite inexplicably – knows his love story which she has turned into a cheap novel. Among other things, the novel refers to Parisiana: “Taking his place in the film theater Parsiana, Leonid [Nabokov’s double] puts his gloves in his cocked hat, but two-three pages later [in the novel] he is already in special dress, takes his bowler off, and before the reader’s eyes there appears an elegant youth with a part in the very middle of his small as if lacquered head and a lavender handkerchief hanging from his pocket.” To this the narrator of “The Admiralty Spire” adds: “I remember that I really used to dress like Max Linder,” the first actor to create a popular film type – who visited Petersburg in 1913.
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