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Cinema in Bologna

1896 | 1950


In town, the first screening took place on 2 September 1896 at the Brunetti Theatre (it’s named Duse now) and was combined with a theatrical play. The second was made only in December in the “Teatro del Corso”. Initially the news did not receive great acclaim: the technical quality was so low that it did not excite or strike much. After the cinema became mainly itinerant: you could attend in the square VIII August. The refinement of the technical means and the enrichment of the plots succeeded in reversing the course and in 1904 the first permanent seat was built in a room in via Rizzoli, which took the name of Marconi. The audience grew esponentially and Bologna literally began to overflow with cinema’s halls: the Sempione, the Radium, the Ideal, the Modernissimo and so on. Among the most famous and popular: the Bios, the Savoia and the Fulgor. The projections were accompanied by pianists who “commented” on the unfolding of the plot with tragic or joyful music, depending on the case.

The actors and the actresses, often coming also from the theatre, became real professionals of the new art. The fame made them famous: the birth of this phenomenon of popular idolatry dates back to 1913. Among the women Lyda Borelli and Francesca Bertini. In 1917 in Bologna was also founded a Film Company (based in a shed in Via Castellata) which was given the name of FELSINA FILM, that unfortunately had a short life because of the very strong economic deficit accumulated, that involved prominent people such as Alfredo Testoni. To have an idea of the type of films that were projected at the beginning of the ‘900 is it useful to mention a passage from the Diary of Mario Oppi, dated 28 November 1903, kept at the Collegio Artistico Venturoli in Bologna. “...In the evening at the time of the walk we went to the Edison Cinematographer at the Arena. They represented many beautiful things, which were: 1) The living monument. 2) Niagara waterfall, in which the water was very naturally depicted. 3) London at night when, among other things, a guard was seen catching a thief. 4) Black and white, very gracious little joke, in which people could see a painter who was enraged to see all that he had painted dirty, he poured a bucket of white paint on the head of a coalman, who, in turn, threw a bucket of black on the head of his opponent…” In 1929 the advent of sound revolutionized everything and the aura of mystery and charm aroused by the mute disappeared. Not so the myth of cinema and stars. In the story of Italian cinema, Bologna had no secondary roles: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Pupi Avati were born in the city; they lived with men of cinema like Renzo Renzi; there is the Cineteca Comunale, one of the most important in Europe and awarded this year in Venice (Venice Classics Award for Best Restored Film), which preserves a heritage envied by the world and, among other things, the personal archive of Charlie Chaplin. Not only that: in the city were also shot some movies. And if we talk about neorealism, perhaps what is most remembered by people as “son of this period” is “They stole a tram” with the direction and interpretation of Aldo Fabrizi. Filming of the film began on October 18, 1950 and continued for a few weeks. The first public screening took place in 1954 in Viterbo. The young assistant director, Sergio Leone, participated in a short part. In addition to Aldo Fabrizi, the performers were Carlo Campanini, Mimo Billi and Lucia Banti. In secondary roles, but requiring a good knowledge of the Petronian environment, also participated Oreste Biavati (well-know street vendor) and Bruno Lanzarini (famous dialect actor).

Traduzione di Riccardo Salza, classe 5A, in collaborazione con il Liceo Linguistico Internazionale C. Boldrini di Bologna, marzo 2022.