Pegas and the Attempt to Legitimize Cinema-Going

Michelle L. Torre, University of Southern California

Early in its history, cinema struggled to find its place among the arts, often garnering support from the least likely places along the way. Recent cinema scholarship has looked to trade journals and fan magazines in order to discern how cinema was perceived and portrayed in the public eye. With the exception of Yuri Tsivian's book on Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception there has been little work of this sort within the Russian context.

This paper will lay the foundation for a much-needed exploration of the connection between popular literature and the growing popularity of the early cinema. In particular, I will look at Pegas a monthly journal published by the Xanzhankov studio in Moscow between 1915 and 1916, which positioned itself as the champion of cinema as an art form. Other regional cinemas had dealt with this struggle much earlier; in France, for example, the film D'art movement began as early as 1908. One of the issues the paper will address is why Russian cinema struggled with legitimacy so late in the game.

I will examine how Pegas set about defending cinema's status as an art form, looking at how they defined their goals, and what they and other contemporary sources foresaw as problems. How did they position the struggle to legitimize cinema in the face of mass tastes? In addition, I will try to determine whether Pegas was successful or not in its attempt to elevate the status of cinema.

Finally, I believe the journal provide us with much needed insight into issues of spectatorship in early Russian cinema. This paper will examine whom the journal was intended for and how the reading audience related to issues of legitimacy. I will also attempt to discern the difference between the reading audience and the actual viewing audience and to explore how one might have informed the other.

This paper will clarify the relationship between the studio and the viewer, as well as that between the viewer and the screen. Much work has yet to be done in the area of spectatorship and issues surrounding the status of early Russian cinema. This work will be an important case study upon which to base further exploration.