MOSCOW: Scattered throughout the city’s outlying neighbourhoods, Moscow’s Soviet-era cinemas have for decades served as the centre of communities.
With names like “Mars” and “The Diamond”, the cinemas were mostly built in the 1960s and 70s during a Soviet film boom and were popular even after the collapse of the USSR, offering cheaper tickets than their counterparts in shopping centres.
Now – as part of a wider plan changing the face of the Russian capital – almost 40 of them are being turned into modern glass complexes.
Developers say the project will brighten up dreary suburbs and bring more life to dormant residential districts.
But it has faced a backlash from activists and residents, who say it will deprive locals of community focal points and destroy important architectural heritage.
The plan is part of a major city redevelopment programme led by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that has included the construction of a multi-billion-dollar park and the demolition of Soviet-era pre-fab apartments.
Real estate company ADG Group bought 39 Soviet-built cinemas from the government and plans to turn them into what it calls “neighbourhood centres”.
Grigory Pechersky, ADG Group’s founder and co-director, said the majority of the cinemas were in “extremely poor” condition when his company bought them in 2014.
“Around half of them were closed since the 1990s,” he told AFP in the group’s central Moscow office.
Pechersky said the project aims to “recreate the historical function of the cinemas, which is for residents to spend their free time comfortably.”
Moscow’s infrastructure in residential areas is limited, he said, and Muscovites tend to travel to the huge city’s centre for quality entertainment and shopping.
“Those areas are very densely populated but in many cases there is nothing there,” he said, adding that around 10 million people live between Moscow’s two main beltways where the cinemas are located.
All but three of the cinemas will be completely torn down and rebuilt.
One of those surviving is the 1938 Rodina (Motherland) cinema, a Stalinist landmark in northeastern Moscow with huge pillars and Soviet mosaics, where ADG Group plans to reopen the building’s original rooftop terrace.
The rest of the cinemas were built in the brutalist style – a utilitarian form of architecture popular in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th century.
Built in the shape of simple squares, some are on local high streets such as Almaz (The Diamond), a 1964 cinema painted turquoise in southern Moscow’s leafy Shabolovka district.
Others – like the Angara, which is named after a Siberian river and already under reconstruction — are surrounded by typical late-Soviet housing blocks.
According to ADG Group, they have “little architectural value”.
The company hired the British architectural firm run by Amanda Levete – who has worked on London’s V&A Museum and Lisbon’s MAAT contemporary art centre — to design a concept for the new cinemas.
The group’s main architect Alexei Belyakov said the cinemas will be reconstructed in a similar style, to form a recognisable “network” across the far-flung districts.
In drawings seen by AFP, they will all have a glass front and will be considerably larger, to make room for retail space and cafes.
All they will retain is the logos of their original names – taken from cities and rivers of the Soviet Union, planets, mountains and precious stones.
Belyakov said that while the cinemas “were built in the spirit of the time, they are not practical anymore.”
But many Moscow architects disagree.
Ruben Arakelyan, who runs a Moscow-based architectural bureau, said that while it’s “right” to revive the cinemas, the brutalist buildings could have been preserved.
He said some of the cinemas began “dying out” when people increasingly started to travel to the city centre for work after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Local activists worry the cinemas will be turned into regular shopping malls — of which Moscow already has an abundance.
“They tell us that these are depressing places that need to be torn down,” said Klim Likhachev, the head of a residents’ group to save the Almaz cinema.
“But this is our favourite cinema. Nobody asked the residents,” Likhachev said. “By reconstruction they actually mean demolition. They are calling it a ‘neighbourhood centre’, but it will in fact be another banal shopping centre.”
Activist Pyotr Ivanov said the problem with the plan was that it assumed each neighbourhood where the cinemas are based had the same needs.
“All of them are different. You could only make universal decisions like that in a command economy like the Soviet Union,” he said.
Two Metro stations away from Almaz, residents have also been fighting to preserve the Ulaanbaatar, named after the capital of once Soviet-friendly Mongolia.
Another of the movie theatres, the Baku Cinema in northwestern Moscow, has served as a community centre for the Azerbaijani diaspora since the Soviet era.
ADG Group’s Belyakov brushed aside criticism, saying it was important for the Russian capital to look to the future.
“Moscow is moving forward,” he said.
Sohni Dharti-fame Shahnaz Begum is no more
DHAKA: Renowned singer Shahnaz Begum passed away here today at the age of 67. She was suffering from heart problems.
Before the fall of Dhaka, Shahnaz Begum was known to the populace of both East and West Pakistan for her chefs d’oeuvre Sohni Dharti and Jeeway Pakistan.
Recipient of the Ekushey Padak and Bangladesh National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer, Shahnaz Begum will be buried today here. She is survived by her husband and two children.
Nation pays tribute to Nisar Bazmi on his 12th death anniversary
ISLAMABAD: Renowned composer and music director of Pakistan film industry ‘Nisar Bazmi’ was remembered on his 12th death anniversary on Friday and ceremonies were organized in this connection by concerned organizations with paying tributes.
Bazmi had no musical background, but he proved as one of the most talented music composers of his time.
Bazmi composed songs for more than 40 films in India 28 of which were released before he migrated to Pakistan on June 21, 1962.
In Pakistan, he started his career with the film `Aisa Bhi Hota Hai’. His national songs were as popular as his film numbers.
PTV played a great role in popularizing his compositions: `Yeh watan tumhara hai,’ `Khayal rakhna,’ `Hum zinda qaum hain’ and `Aae rooh-e-Quaid.’
Nisar Bazmi composed music for 66 films in Pakistan. During his musical career in Pakistan, he composed many hit songs for Runa Laila, Ahmed Rushdi, Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hassan. He was responsible for introducing Alamgir into film music in the country.
Nisar Bazmi received many Nigar Awards for best composer for film `Saiqa’ in 1968, `Anjuman’ in 1970, `Meri Zindagi Hai Naghma’ in 1972, `Khaak Aur Khoon’ in 1979 and `Hum Aik Hain’ in 1986.
He died on March 22, 2007 at the age of 82.
The Legend of Maula Jatt controversy
LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) today issued a stay order against the upcoming film The Legend of Maula Jatt.
The court restrained respondents, including producer, writer and
others, of the film from unauthorized use of the title, characters, story and music of a 1979 Punjabi blockbuster Maula Jatt, besides issuance of censor certificate.
Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan passed the interim orders while hearing an appeal, filed by Sarwar Bhatti, producer of original movie ‘Maula Jatt’ against an order of the Intellectual Property Tribunal.
The petitioner’s counsel, Ahsan Masood, argued that his client produced film Maula Jatt in 1979 and no one could use the title, music, script, and dialogues of the film as per the Copy Rights Act. However, the respondents produced a film titled The Legend of Maula Jatt in violation of the act without obtaining authorization from his client and got a censor certificate for its exhibition as well, he added.
He contended that the film violated the copyrights and pleaded with the court to issue directions for action against illegal production and exhibition of the film while setting aside the orders of the Intellectual Property Tribunal. He also pleaded with the court to restrain the respondents from using the title, script, and dialogues of the film Maula Jatt, and issuance of the censor certificate.
However, a lawyer on behalf of the respondents opposed the plea saying that no violation had been committed. But the court, after hearing arguments, issued the stay order against the film and adjourned further hearing till 6th June.