The Soviet Lviv Today: the Golden Hall of the Cinema “Lviv”

“The Soviet Lviv Today” is a series of reports about the most atmospheric city locations. Sooner or later these hulky monuments of the epoch will vanish, so now we still have a chance to go there, where time stopped. 

On the screen there is a sex symbol of the 60s, a legendary Mykola Vinhranovskyi, in the role of a collective farmer from Naddniprianshchyna, is going to Berlin. Sticky from sweets “Svitoch” children’s hands are grasping the armrests of wooden chairs. A strong smell of paint. The first performance of “A Story of Flaming Years” – the first Soviet widescreen film.

101 minute of Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s script will have brought his wife, Yuliia Solntseva, “A Golden Palm” for the best directing at the Cannes Film Festival. But the audience does not know about it yet.

In a brand-new cinema the lights are going dark. A heavy silence is being interrupted by machine-gun bursts, a tank track is rolling out from the gigantic screen. At this moment all other things take second place. War is here and now, not some 15 years ago. Tears and enjoyment. Life and death are in front of you. Directly on the screen.

And only afterwards, after the film demonstration, opposite a just painted nice facade, Lviv residents will be discussing anxiously Khruschov’s shoe and ‘Kuzkina Mat’ at the meeting of UNO. People will feel happy for new buses “Laz” going towards Baikonur to get Yurii Oleksiiovych to a take-off platform. Also, people will be dreaming about a TV set “Verkhovyna”, which has just come down from the conveyor line of the plant “Electron”.

It is 1960. The year still living in these walls.

Today a yellowed from moisture screen looks with a wall-eye at 911 empty chairs. Their armrests are still sticky, either because of children’s hands or of old lacquer. There are discolored candy wraps, cigarette butts and empty bottles on the floor. Only bombastic proportions remind about past glory. The cinema is like an aristocrat who went bankrupt and has to serve. It carries itself with dignity, shyly hiding the patches on the old tail-coat.

Before the USSR collapse “Lviv” was very popular. It was the first widescreen cinema with stereo sound in Ukraine. Only in 1989, 645 thousand of Lviv residents, almost all the population of the city, visited film demonstrations in it. For one day there were 7 filmshows, 36 people worked here. Today you can count the staff with fingers of one hand.

There was a time when there were the Soviet amusement machines in the hall. A legendary “Battleship”.

A child’s hand is carefully inserting a warm coin into a slot. The image appears in the periscope. Start.

(To play, click on the pictures)

“Sniper 2, table basketball, hockey, “Mainline”.. The head is spinning.

Stale moist air, an empty hall, a closed ticket-office. Each step to the second floor equals one year. The last one is dated by 1990. Since that moment the cinema has started to dilapidate.

The walls and billiard cloth are saturated with cigarette smoke. As a phantom of the 90s, a half-round bar counter is hiding in the corner. Behind it, there is an artefact, a German Melitta. Almost all Lviv gangsters were having coffee from it.

A cup of espresso, with a pistol, ‘makar’, in the pocket. Marlboro cigarette is smouldering between dirty fingers with gipsy gold. Another hand is exploring a menu.

The past as a peaceful transformer vibrates in these walls. Mechanisms and lenses of the projection booth keep quiet somewhere there in the slums. The hand is opening a metal cover. The machine, clearing its throat, is preparing to digest three and a half kilometers of the reel.

The lights are going dark. On the screen a collective farmer from Naddniprianshchyna with a machine-gun in the hands is going to Berlin.

Photo by Juliya Low

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