Paris - All the Rest

What follows is an attempt to capture the remaining (or close to it) cinemas of interest, historic importance or just plain weirdness in Paris, as well as other points of interest in the Districts detailed. This will be in numerical order, which does not necessarily suggest the easiest logistics of going from theater to theater are in numerical order. Things get a little weird in the 2nd and 10th Arrondissements, for instance, which abut each other geographically, but are separated by 8 numbers. You’ll figure it out.

The 1st Arrondissement
Forum Des Images  2, Impasse Saint-Eustache Metro: Les Halles (4)

In the Winter of 2008, when I was in Paris, I eagerly headed to the legendary Forum Des Images, only to find it closed for remodeling. Along with not catching a screening at Le Pagode (see below), this was one  of two major disappointments on that trip.
It is open now, however, in all of its new glory, and it is absolutely essential.   Wouldn’t say I would choose it over the Cinematheque, necessarily, but it does offer richer and more varied experiences and is much more centrally located and easy to get to than its brother in film geekdom.

Easy to get to, but no so easy to find, mind you.  But don’t be discouraged. You need to head to the magnificent architectural structure Les Halles, which is a large shopping mall, then simply walk down the ramp at the St. Eustache church, keep going down until you find the floor with the two UGC mega-cinemas (below) and the new, refurbished Forum Des Images is there.

This is a true museum for the moving image. Not just screenings of classics and new films (which they have, with an emphasis on the hard to find and new films by young filmmakers), but master classes in the cinema, meetings and debates, hall rentals, collections and archives, features for children, an astonishing array of visiting artists, etc. And what a deal. At this writing, 132 Euro (96 Euro if you are over 60 or unemployed!!) will by you the Passpartout, with full access to the Forum and all its wonders. Will be my first stop (sorry Pagode) next visit.

Nearby...Hotel Regina  2, Placde de Pyramides  

Bourne's hotel while in Paris in BOURNE IDENTITY.  That great early fight scene takes place here.

2nd Arrondissement

Le Grand Rex 1 Blvd. Poissonniere Metro: Grands Boulevard (8) or (9)

All recommendations for Le Grand Rex, perhaps the quintessential historical movie house in Europe, has to come with a giant caveat for those of you who find dubbing to be anathema to true cinema. The Rex staunchly does NOT show Version Originale prints (everything non-French is dubbed in French). I had plans to see 30 Days of Night here, thinking it might be a wild trip to watch a vampire film in one of the oldest relics in Paris, where vampires still live and flourish, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of the dubbing (you know, maybe the dubbing would have made the experience even weirder, so not such a bad thing, maybe. Now, in reflection, and realizing I was in Paris and didn’t see a film at the Rex is a little bit like being in Le Mans and not taking in the races). 

The continued existence of the Rex, dubbing and all, is a reminder that once the place a movie was taken in was at least as important as the movie itself. The whole idea of the Grand Cinema Palaces is they were the great equalizer for what was considered to be an otherwise disreputable and lower class art. The Palaces, in effect, allowed the typical moviegoer, who generally in the 10s and 20s when most of these places were erected in Europe and the states were working class or lower, to feel the opulence of the rich. The entire movie industry was based on the idea of escape, and the Palaces made them feel like royalty for two hours for a few nickels or so.

Le Grand Rex is a place that takes itself entirely seriously as an institution, and rightly so. The biggest movie theatre still operating in Paris, the Grand Rex opened in 1932 with 2,800 seats in orchestra and two balcony levels. The atmospheric auditorium is in perfect shape and a big screen called "grand large", a screen behind the stage that can be removed, is used for some movies and every Christmas. Disney movies are a tradition with a water fall on stage at this time.

The original 'Le Grand Rex' auditorium currently seats 2,750 and remains the largest single movie auditorium in Europe. Four screens were added in the next building and three screens underground replacing the former dance hall in the 1970's. A new project for 12 screens and a remodeling keeping the main auditorium in tact is planned for the future.

There is an additional attraction called "Les Etoiles du Rex", looking like a Euro Disney attraction, which takes you on a 'self conducted' backstage tour which describes the history of the theatre and the movies with plenty of thrills and special effects.

In October 1982, le Ministere de la Culture added Le Grand Rex to the list of historic monuments.

Nearby…the Rex Club

Next door to the legendary cinema itself, the Rex Club is one of the premiere clubs in Paris, specializing in techno disco. 

The Beverly Theater 14 Rue de la Ville Neuve Metro: Grands Boulevard (8) or (9)

So, the Beverly and the Brady (below, in the 10th Arrondissement

I feel badly for this fellow in the picture, who at 1:15 in the afternoon could not resist the urge of a visit to the Beverly, and was likely aware of, if not hostile about, the invasion of privacy I was visiting upon him. 

The 2nd Arrondissement is a bit of a cinema graveyard, I am afraid. Amongst the legendary theaters no longer operating as cinemas in the area are the Vendome Opera on 32 Avenue de L’Opera (now retail shops), the Gaumont Theater on 7 Poissonniere (the Gaumont “G” is still present on the outside), which was the first of all of Gaumont’s theaters in Paris, is also now home to retail shops.

The 4th Arrondissement

Cinema at the Pompidou Center Place George Pompidou Metro: Rambuteau (11)

Merdre!   I just missed an Alain Resnais retrospective at the Pompidou when I was in Paris in 2008! Imagine the thrill of adding to the bafflement of Last Year at Marinebad by not understanding a word anyone is saying. But digging those long tracking shots anyway.

The Pompidou is reportedly great for Cinema, with two state-of-the-art screens with an emphasis on retrospectives and the esoteric. The museum itself is, of course, awe inspiring, even if you don’t manage to catch a flick.   Definitely one of my first stops when I get back, as they are always doing some sort of interesting retrospective.


MK2 Beaubourg 7 Quai de la Loire Metro: Loures

Maybe the high point of my trip to Paris was at this small and scrappy MK2 theater in the shadows
of the mighty modern miracle of the Pompidou Center. Fortunately I was paying very close attention to my Pariscope and noticed perhaps the ultimate film geek film (Francophilic geeks, at least), JL Godard’s Histoires du Cinema(s), was playing at 11:30 on a Sunday morning. This presentation was entitled Le Seul du Cinema (the original title of one of the several “chapters” in the magnum opus) which seems to be a collection of segments from the original, which was made for French Television over the course of several years.

Why the ultimate Film Geek Film? Well, for one Histoires is still (as of this writing) not available in the states on DVD, but did make a short tour through America in its long (4 hour) version. And it is a film about film (though isn’t every JLG in some way meta?), full of references and clips only a film geek could love.

Unfortunately, when it landed at the Northwest Film Forum for a few nights back a while back I was in Reno, of all places, and missed it. And it is Godard, and he is the quintessential cineaste – critic, director, recluse, gadfly. Godard’s films manage to be experimental, playful, political, aesthetically rigorous (is there a more beautiful film than Contempt, for instance), hilarious.

Imagine my delight upon being able to see a portion of his mysterious Magnum Opus (at least this excellent collection of segments) in Paris, with English subtitles, no less (I have no idea why this print had the subtitles, and I fully expected to live the consequences of experiencing this in French, but hey, what the heck).

A great film snob game would be to Guess That Film Clip from Histoires (I did okay with the American stuff like Night of the Hunter and all of the Hitchcock stuff). Godard, not interested in a straight historical clip show ala Chuck Workman, rather is more obsessed by mysterious quality of all artistic expression, and, as always, the signs and meaning of the cinema in particular, and uses
JLG at the MK2
the clips as a kind of decollage to support his rambling but brilliant theoretical writing (watching Histoires is like hearing Godard re-living his days as a Cahiers critic). This flurry of images, pilled one on top of another and intercut with paintings, Godard’s usual obsessive use of intertitles and flashing, colliding text, the narration further supported by poetry and literary quotations, an astonishing musical score featuring Tom Waits, Stravinsky, Delerue and many others, provides a non-pareil aural/visual experience.

And the small Salle 2 at the MK2 was packed at 11:30 on a Sunday when most of the rest of Paris was just coming into their senses.
Prior to 11:30 that Sunday morning I was feeling a bit burned out, honestly, a little tired of wading through tourists as I made my way from Arrondissement to Arondissement trying to find the essential cinematic experience, sometimes finding disappointment, dead historical cinemas and mega plexes dominating the landscape, tired of the official sights and sounds of Paris (oh, there’s Notre Dame again!), allowing myself, if ever briefly, to feel homesick.   But I emerged from the theater an entirely refreshed man. The Pompidou, the first image seen as I emerged, looked fresher than ever,  the gray skies were no longer grey, but purple.  People and things took on a sheen where prior to the screening I saw only a blur.

And this is the crucial difference, isn’t it, between movie going and the experience of watching movies at home. At home, you cozy up on the couch, maybe you make it through the film, maybe you nod off, your stomach growls, the phone rings. When it is over you retire to your bed, probably thinking about the next day’s work, likely not thinking about the film at all, which did its job as a diversion and pastime, but had little other effect. But at the theater, when it is over, you regard this community of total strangers with whom you have shared this experience, and you see the face of hope in the human race. You step out of the dark of the theater, into the light or streetlight, the world seems a better place, problems seem smaller, order is restored, the toil of living is lightened.

The 7th Arrondissement

La Pagode 57 bis Rue de Babylone 75007  Metro: St. Francois Xavier (13)

Regret number two in Winter of 2008 was I was not able to see a film at the legendary La Pagod.  Fortunately, I was able to visit and wander the grounds, and it is one of the cinemas of Paris where that is almost experience enough.

The Pagode is basically the Notre Dame of Paris cinemas. It is an exceptional piece of architecture in the otherwise Haussmann-era dominated 7th Arrondissement.

La Pagode was erected at the beginning of the century (yep, Le Pagode preceded Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood) by the manager of the department store Bon March for his wife on the land next to their house, a real pagoda in a Japanese style used as a ballroom. But they quickly divorced and the pagoda was hired for events. It turned to a movie house in the Thirties. A projection booth was built at the rear side and beautiful glass windows were darkened by simple wood panels and additional building constructed on a part of the garden was used as the lobby. In the Fifties and Sixties La Pagode was a simple district movie house showing second run movies. 

Courtyard of Le Pagode
Every Thursday, the children's matinee with Laurel and Hardy movies and cartoons. At the beginning of the Seventies, it was turned to an art movie theatre but the place began to look and smell its age. As multiplexes sprang up all around Paris, the future of Le Pagode seemed in a mist, until an independent French producer built a new screen underground with 180 seats. It now thrives as a point of destination for both cinephiles and fans of architecture alike.


Nearby… Cine-Images Poster Store 68 Rue de Babylone

Across the street from La Pagode, the poster store that is its equal, Cine-Images. The store features original posters only, no repros, that range from the early teens to the 1980s. Not a place for the penny-pincher, but if you are enthusiastic enough, you can kill time browsing here. They have a huge inventory (in store and online), ranging in price from 250 to 25,000 Euros (for an original Garbo in Ann Christine) but if you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it.

8th Arrondissement (CHAMPS-ELYSEES)

The Champs Elysees (the Avenue which dominates the 8th Arrondissement) has a rich cinematic history. Think of it as Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards rolled into one. Most of the significant movie premières of the last century have occurred on the Champs. Similar to its Southern California brethren, its history is steeped more in the glamour of big-time cinematic exhibition that the grittier cinemas of the Latin Quarter, for instance, and, like its brethren, it is more of a destination for tourists, these days, than actual cinephiles.

The Champs is what it is. some may consider it the most beautiful Avenue in the world, with its distinct tree lined grandeur and high-falootin’ shops. Others, the very thing that is wrong with Paris these days, a big-name retail extravaganza whose grand old movie theaters have been engulfed and ruined by the major chains (Gaumont and UGC) showing nothing but big budget Hollywood and French films.
For movie buffs, it will always be the street where Michel and Patricia stroll along in A Bout de Souffle, and Patricia hawks her International Herald Tribunes,  back in its scrappier days.

For certain, it is the street with the most movie theaters per square meter than any in Paris, and most of them are historically significant.   And while the big chains dominate, and blockbuster programming prevails, some care has been taken to keep the original buildings in tact.  And, sorry to say it, in a way, but that is one of the benefits of having big-money benefactors.
(I am indebted to the Cinema Treasures website for much of the theater description that follows.  Please visit their site and give to their noble cause).
Gaumont Champs Elysees (Ambassade) 27 Champs Elysees  Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1) or (9)

The twin Gaumont theaters at 27 Champs are mirrors of each other in terms of architecture and unfortunate programming. The Ambassade (on the north side of the street) opened on the Champs Elysees of Paris in 1959 with the intent on becoming the flagship theater in the Gaumont chain.

The theater’s architect, the legendary Georges Peynet, built the projection booth under the balcony in order to obtain the best condition for that unique experience of looking square on into the movie (this is similar at the Max Linder Panorama). The ceiling made of plastic tiles would change color during the intermission from green to blue and red.

The Auditorium was one of the first to introduce 70mm prints. Back in the day the curtain would vanish beside the screen for 70mm movies leaving a picture from wall to wall. A battalion of ushers in bright uniforms welcomed patrons and a suit and a tie were necessary to get in this first run movie theatre where a lot of famous premieres took place.

In 1981 Gaumont bought an adjacent fashion shop to create a bigger lobby and the former Paramount Elysees in the next building already divided into four screens but with luxurious design. The Gaumont Ambassade underwent a renovation of the facade and became a multiplex with a large capacity in the main auditorium which was renovated and lost its original ceiling and its original design. Seating was decreased to 740 with new more comfortable seats.

In 1987 a former Chinese restaurant in the same building became screen six. The big balcony of screen one was divided in 1993 in two screens with stadium seating and wide screens and digital sound.

Thus, a film going experience that sounds simply from another time and another place, became just that, in the interest of mass-distribution of indifferent films. Yet it is not hard, when inside the Ambassade, to close one’s eyes and imagine those flashing tiles and tuxedo-clad ushers.

The theater across the street is the former Pathe Margnon. The Marignan opened in 1933 with the luxury of a movie palace. The fine Art Deco design included the Pathe rooster on the walls, a mezzanine and a deep balcony. The orchestra pit had iron work banisters and the orchestra could move to the level of the stage. Seating 1800 patrons, it was one of the biggest movie theatres in Paris after the Gaumont Palace, the Rex and the Paramount Opera. People of Paris discovered Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" at the Marignan and during WW II, it was a "soldaten kino".

A 1957 refurbishing did not alter the design but the stage and orchestra pit were no longer used and stereo sound was installed. Many big premieres took place here and first run movies were presented. Usherettes who remembered DOCTOR ZHIVAGO’S premiere said people were drinking vodka in the Russian way, throwing the glasses on the floor. The movie was a hit with a 70mm print. By 1968, the Marignan was considered an old fashioned cinema and before closing for remodeling, it was loaned to the students during the 1968 May Revolution for meetings. The new duplex which emerged from the remodeling kept the rotunda of the ground floor as a bar and the stalls became the Concorde, an underground level auditorium with armchairs a bar, and smoking. The Marignan's former mezzanine and balcony became the other auditorium.

In 1972, a Concorde 2 was created in an unused part of the rotunda and later the Marignan was triplexed, two screens in the balcony and in the former stalls, a 500 seat theatre. Two more screens were added, a 70 seat underground one and a 100 seat one, replacing the lobby of the balcony. In 1992 the seven screen Marignan was under control of Gaumont and the space of the two former balcony screens are converted to one stadium style auditorium seating 400 with a wide screen. Digital sound was added in four of the auditoriums. Gaumont eventually followed through on plans to convert the old Marignan to a luxury multiplex, where it programs mostly big budget American and French films.
2 Le Lincoln 14 Rue Lincoln Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1) or (9)

A comparatively humble theater by the 8th standards, Le Lincoln lives on La Rue Lincoln, just off the Champs. This 70’s built theater was an original multiplex (two theaters) with an unheard of (for the time) 150 seats per theater.  They were so successful early they decided to convert a screening room into another small auditorium. Le Lincoln maintains its (comparatively) independent attitude with careful programming of first-run (mostly European) art films.

Oh, there is a very good Irish Pub right next door as well, which is part of the nice and (for the neighborhood) affordable Hotel Elysess.

UGC Normandie 116 Champs Elysees Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1) or (9)

In 1937 the Arte Moderne extravaganza the Normandie opened on the Champs Elysees One of the first Cinemascope screens in Paris is constructed here for THE ROBE, which was a hit.

The theatre kept its original design without alterations up until 1967. The UGC chain decided to rebuild the theatre smaller but still remained the flagship of the chain.

It reopened in 1968, with auditorium stadium seating with comfortable armchairs and a curved shape and exotic wood panels in the balcony. A wide screen 70mm and stereo sounds was also installed. A cozy lobby with bar and marble in the restrooms gave the Normandie the majesty of an old-time movie palace.

In 1969, UGC was sold by the government to an association of French cinema owners. There were two other UGC theatres on the Champs Elysees: the Biarritz with two screens and the Ermitage with three screens. The Normandie remained a single screen.

Many premieres took place at the Normandie like "The Three Musketeers" and "That's Entertainment" which filled the auditorium four times a day (900 seats) for weeks in 1972.

In 1978 the huge space under the theatre's former circle and stage were transformed into the Lido cabaret (1200 seats) sharing the same entrance. That entrance is featured in the picture above.

In 1980 two more screens were added in the next-door building. In 2004 the 900 seat auditorium after refurbishing is still one of the nicest cinemas of Paris. This is likely the theater on the Champs that most closely maintains the spirit and look of its origins, if not terribly interesting programming.

Le Balzac 1 Rue Balzac Metro: Charles de Gaulle/Etoile (1) or (9)

An art theater multiplex in the tradition of its twin in the district Le Lincoln, Le Balzac shows there is hope for the 8th with its frequently scheduled debates about film and other cultural issues. 

Le Balzac is an excellent venue for Live Music, as well (at the Club des amis due Balzac), and they do Sunday Brunch screenings, allegedly (I was not able to attend this, but plan to next time).
The cinema is run, and has been run, by Jean-Jacques Schpoliansky for the last 35 years.  He inhereted the job (and theater) from his Grandfather, who founded Le Balzac in 1935.  Monseiur Schpoliansky maintains a steadfast dedication to independence (and will be quick to tell you so!)), so if there is one cinema you visit while in the 8th, may I recommend Le Balzac?

Publicis 133 Champs Elysees Metro: Charles de Gaulle/Etoile (1) or (9)

The lines were around the block this night on the Champs for an 11:00 p.m. screening of Argento’s SUSPIRIA, and I think that is a very good sign for the Publicis.

Nearby…Hotel Raphael 17 Avenue Kleber

Actually in the 16th Arrondissement, this posh, ridiculously pricey hotel just 200 meters from the Arc de Triomphe goes whole-hog with the Marie Antoinette Interior Design. For film buffs, it has interest as it was used as the sole location by Wes Anderson for his short film HOTEL CHEVALIER, included with the DARJEELING LIMITED dvd, the one where Natalie Portman shows her naked, bruised backside and set an entire generation of fanboys a-twitter.

If you are planning a visit, however, just plan to stroll through, as the cheapest room is around 500 Euros a night. Which begs the question: just exactly how was Jason Schwartzman and his 70s porn mustache able to afford living here for a month?

UGC George V 146 Champs Elysees Metro: George V

"Les Portiques" (as the George was affectionately known) opened in 1938. In 1952, the auditorium was remodeled and enlarged. It played WEST SIDE STORY for almost four years. In the 80's, three small auditoriums were added, then seven more auditoriums were added too, the large auditorium was given THX sound and a larger curved screen.

Recently renovated, the complex can seat up to 1,710 in its eleven auditoriums. Theater 1 has 
418 seats on two levels and a beautiful 12-meter wide screen. It is equipped with DTS sound, to which SRD was added recently.

The seven new auditoriums were added in 1984, in the volume formerly used by the restaurant "La Pergola", when the theater was part of Jean-Pierre Lemoine's circuit. It was a rather ambitious
plan. The new complex is luxurious, with marble, big chandeliers, blue and gold auditoriums. A newspaper wrote about its "extremely large screens"; there was some exaggeration there. A new entrance and a new lobby will lead to the auditoriums.

The largest auditorium of the Pergola, and the second largest of the complex, is theater 2; it has 400 seats; like theater 1, it is equipped with DTS and SRD sound; the screen is curved and 35ft
wide. It was the first large auditorium opened on the Champs-Elysées for decades. The other auditoriums are smaller and have mono sound; the screens are not big, but none is really tiny.

At long last UGC remodeled the theater. Theater 1 lost THX, but got DTS (like theater 2, 3 and 4), and the DTS trailer. Recently, theaters 1 and 2 also got SRD. All others are equipped with Dolby Stereo. Theater 2 still has STS. The screens couldn't be enlarged, and the emphasis was put on 
luxury and viewing conditions. The auditoriums are dark blue and black. DTS is very impressive in small auditoriums.

Theaters 3 to 11 are smaller (75 to 168 seats), but they all have Dolby sound, and they can play movies for months. Theaters 3 and 4 also have DTS sound. First shows start around 11am, at a reduced price of 29 Francs. In 1998, the UGC George V almost sold one million tickets, ranking number one on the Champs-Elysées.

Nearby….Bar 30 and the Buddha Bar on Rue Boissy d’Anglas Metro: Franklin Roosevelt

What the hell, if you have already made the trek to the 8th and Le Champs Elysees you may already have somewhat deep pockets,  so why not treat yourself to a drink at each of the Bar 30 and the Buddha Bar, on Rue Boissy d'Anglas, a little side street behind and along the famous Hotel Crillon.

My wife has an expression: Hipster Headache. It is the condition that results from being our age and hanging out with too many hipsters in too close quarters for too great lengths of time. This is a condition likely to occur at each of these bars, as the cream of the crop and the simply creamy hang out here.

The Buddha Bar is justly famous for having the grooviest music in town, and they actually sell CDs of the bar mixes here and elsewhere in the city. Each place is justly infamous for their 14 Euro cocktails. A trip to these places is simply a “Fuck It, I am in Paris” moment, and hell, while you are at it, why not treat yourself to a room at the Crillon.


Cinema St. Lazare Pasquier 44 Rue Pasquier Metro: Saint Augustine (9)

If you are making your way away from the 8th and heading to the 2nd or 9th Arrondissement, don’t necessarily ignore this simple yet elegant tri-screen in the eastern part of the 8th. They show prestige, big budget art films at a very reasonable price: 7 Euros at peak hours, and several discount shows (check your Pariscope!) at 5 Euros all week long. This theater is not to be confused with the long-since closed classic movie theater the Cineac St. Lazare which is (was) in the 9th Arrondissement.

The 9th Arrondissement

Max Linder Panorama 24 Bd. Poissonniere Metro: Grands Boulevard (8) or (9)

The balcony at the Max Linder is probably the best place in Paris to be entirely engulfed by a movie. It’s old-school, designed by the legendary movie theater architect Georges Peynet, and the projection is deliberately built at eye level, so when one sites about mid-way up in the balcony the effect is as if you are looking the characters squarely in the eye. This combined with the
massive “Panorama” screen and the outstanding audio facilities, and I was completely held captive by a movie for the first time in as long as I can remember (it even helped me forgive the shortcomings of the film I saw there, Burton’s SWEENEY TODD).

The early show on the weekdays at the Linder has to be the best movie deal in Paris, 5 Euros for the big screen. Between the sweet deal and the complete envelopment I experienced, I was walking on air after leaving Le Max.

The hall was acquired in 1914 by legendary burlesque and film star Max Linder, the “French Chaplin.” He was, in fact, such an inspiration to Chaplin himself he referred to Linder as “the Professor.”

Nearby….the Cinedoc Bookstore 51, PASSAGE JOUFFROY 75009

With its twin in cinephilia, the wonderful and comparatively humble Cine Reflect in the 6th Arrondissement, the Cinedoc is a Mecca for film obsessives everywhere.
Cinedoc’s specialty is both original posters and a massive system of files on just about every important figure in the world of cinema. The files contain photos, clippings, just about anything you could name that was ever printed, photographed or featured on a given individual of interest

My preference for Cine Reflect is probably based on the smaller store’s slightly less snooty attitude about their inventory. As I leafed through the files, the clerk on duty seemed to be staring a hole in the back of my head, giving me the feeling that lookie-loos (which I admittedly was this day having blown my souvenir wad at Cine Reflect) were not necessarily welcome. But for sheer volume of memorabilia, Cinedoc cannot be beaten.


Gaumont Opera Paramount 2 Boulevard des Capucines Metro: Opera (3) and (7)

A living (if heavily botoxed) legend in the 9th. Located near the Opéra, at the intersection of Boulevard des Capucines and Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin, the "Théâtre Du Vaudeville" was built between 1866 and 1868. In 1927, the building was remodeled, and the Paramount took the place of the theater; the cinema was inaugurated November 24, 1927. The theater had 1918 seats on three levels.
The new theater had continuous showings in 1928 (this policy came from the United States; fewer and fewer theaters still do it in Paris today), the first show starting in the morning. Some of the most prestigious premieres took place in the auditorium, with the most famous names at the time.

In 1972, an auditorium was built in the basement, replacing artists' dressing rooms and an electric generator. It was named theater 1. The large auditorium was still unchanged at this time.

In 1974, the large auditorium followed the fate of most of movie palaces and was twinned. With the help of a concrete slab, the orchestra and the first balcony became a two-level auditorium with 1,100 seats, and the second balcony became theater 3, with 900 seats, which burned down before its inauguration.
Later in the 70s, the auditoriums became smaller and smaller. The Paramount got some room from a nearby bakery and a Yugoslavian travel agency (which moved across the street in a part of the building of the Berlitz school formerly owned by the Paramount in exchange!). Two small auditoriums opened in 1975, theaters 5 and 6, which had their own entrance and box-office on Rue de la Chaussée D'Antin.
Unlike the other Paramount theaters in Paris (Paramount Elysées, Paramount City Triomphe, Paramount Gobelins, Paramount Montparnasse, Paramount Orléans, Paramount Montmartre, Paramount Odéon...), which were part of the Parafrance circuit, and which usually played the same movies, the Paramount Opéra is actually owned by Paramount. When Parafrance went bankrupt in 1985, only the Paramount Opéra kept its name, while other Paramount theaters closed down or were sold.

As medium-sized auditoriums became fast money-makers, theater 2 was twinned again in 1978, when a wall was built in the auditorium, and two smaller auditoriums were born, each with a balcony. Left was theater 2 (600 seats), which used two thirds of the volume, whereas theater 4 (400 seats) was on the right. Theater had a rather decent volume, but its 35ft screen was too high, and slightly turned sideways, because the projection booth, common to both auditoriums, had been unchanged. Theater 4 looked like a long corridor, it had a 30 ft screen. Theater 3 became the complexes’ largest auditorium.

In 1992, the tea-room made room to a seventh, small auditorium.

The lobby didn't change a lot during the cinema's history, but today decorations hide the marble staircase; behind the box-office are the escalators and a souvenirs store.

The latest major remodeling happened in 1995 when theaters 2 and 4 were torn down. The new theater 4 was rebuilt at the back of the previous auditoriums (its screens being located at the left of the building). After walking along theater 4, the audience enters brand new theater 2, which has a rather big volume (the front part of the 1,100 seat theater 2).

The largest auditorium is now theater 3, which used to be the second largest, as it often happened when auditoriums were divided several times; it is located at the very top of the building.   It can accommodate up to 800, which makes it the second largest auditorium in Paris (behind the Grand Rex, of course).

The Paramount Opéra ranks fourth among best ticket sellers (behind the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles and Bercy, the Gaumont Parnasse and the Pathé Wepler, and ahead of the Rex). 900,000 persons see a movie at the Paramount every year. But this number is slightly going down this year, like in most complexes in Paris. Because of traffic jams and parking problems, suburbians tend to go to the new multiplexes built in Paris near the malls. The Paramount is fighting to keep ahead. The construction of theater 2 and the equipment in Dolby EX in three auditoriums prove it. 

Nearby...Intercontinental Paris Grande Hotel  1 Rue Scribe

This the the hotel of Lemmy Caution, the hero of Godard's ALPHAVILLE.  Also the Harrison Ford's hotel in Polanski's FRANTIC.

Gaumont Opera Premiere 31 Blvd. de Italiens Metro: Opera (3) and (7)

In the 30s a huge office building called the Palais de Hanovre was built on the Grand Boulevards. At the ground floor were stores and a newsreel theatre that seated 200. 

The building was renamed the Palais Berlitz after the English school which located to the building. In the 50s the ground floor and basement of the building were converted into a 1500-seat cinema called the Berlitz, and the old newsreel theatre was turned into a restaurant.

It was one of the most important first run movie theatres in Paris at that time. The design featured a huge curved lobby with stained glass windows leading to the big auditorium which had club armchairs. However, due to two large columns in the auditorium space, the size of the screen was limited.

In the 80s Gaumont took over and divided the Berlitz, including the restaurant (the former newsreel house) into six small screens. The place lost its original design and was no longer really very attractive.

In the 90s the building was entirely rebuilt with only the facade remaining. In the new building, the new six-screen multiplex run by Gaumont has a much nicer design. 

Nearby….The Lumiere Plaque 14 Boulevard des Capucines

Plaque commemorating the first movie screening in Paris and, thus, the world.  This was, of course, the Lumiere Brothers short WORKERS LEAVING THE LUMIERE FACTORY.   This was followed
by the screening of another nine short films.   The screening was at the Grand Café, which allegedly used to sit in the same spot as this plaque. 


And…The Grands Boulevards

The "Grands Boulevards" have been one of the most fashionable walks in the city since their creation. It was in 1670, after the war victories commemorated by the Triumph Arches of Saint Martin and Saint Denis, that Louis XIV decided to dismantle the fortifications built by Charles V and Louis XIII. He replaced them by a large wooded promenade area in the XVIIIth century, which then, became the bustling "Boulevards", one of the most fashionable places to stroll and enjoy the coffee shops, large mansion houses and theatres.

The covered passageways made the area even more pleasant as these protected Parisians from bad weather and noise. The Passage des Panoramas, built in 1800 to facilitate access between the Palais Royal and the Boulevard Montmartre is among the oldest ones. It houses the "Théâtre des Variétés" where Offenbach created the operettas "La Belle Hélène" and the "Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein" for Napoleon III. It's the cinema, which then appeared.

The Grands Boulevards are still to this day full of life, with plenty of cinemas and theatres presenting light comedies. Cinemas are just a few meters away with The Max Linder Panorama and The Grand Rex, round the corner.

The 10th Arrondissement

L’Archipel 17 Boulevard de Strasbourg  Metro: Strausbourg St. Denis (8) or (9)

L’Archipel, and its twin sister Le Brady, both on the wide and weird Boulevard Strasbourg in the 10th Arrondissement, seems to embrace the scrappy nature of this working class district, go with it, and thrive.   If you want a blockbuster premiere, head to the 8th, they seem to be saying.  And while it appears to work for them, the spareseness of the crowds I witnessed give me pause to worry.
For instance, I attended an afternoon screening of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and it was myself and two gals whom I suspect may have been there for Brad Pitt and were therefore ultimately disappointed but the de-glamorized Jesse James he portrayed.  Really good movie, though.

An anecdote from L’Archipel that seemed meaningful, at least at the time. In the third act of JESSE, as Robert and Charles Ford are travelling the country in a burlesque re-creation of the murders, a sprocket got stuck and split the screen in half. I am not convinced the two gals behind me cared much, but I was a little peeved. It was clear the projectionist had left his post because a certain amount of time passed, but somehow had sensed the problem, and within 20 seconds, before I could bolt my seat to complain out front in crappy High School French, I heard the sound of urgent footsteps behind me. It was the urgency of the running that really struck me. Here was a practically private screening the middle of an indifferent day, but this guy took his craft and why he was there very seriously. And he remedied the situation very quickly.

In the lobby, after the screening, he was there to apologize for the inconvenience. I suspect if I had been so inclined, and more confident in my French, I might have asked for a refund and gotten it, but his passion for what is essentially a minor job of work he regarded as a major responsibility was worth the 7 Euros and then some.

L’Archipel is also a very highly regarded live music venue, which I might guess is a revenue generator for the cinema, at least one hopes.

10 Le Brady 39 Boulevard de Strasbourg  Metro: Strausbourg St. Denis (8) or (9)

So, yeah, the Brady was a porno house back in the day, but was snatched up by Jean-Pierre Mocky, a well-regarded producer and director, and was well-meaningly transformed into the best art house in the 10th Arrondissement. As an evidence of hipster-approval, The Brady is the preferred theater for the characters in Christophe Honore’s recent meta-musical, Les Chanson d’Amour. It also has one of the fairest price points of any cinema in town. I saw Beowulf here (don’t ask – I was alone) at the first show of the day in the tiny Salle 2, and it was 5.50 Euro.

I have mostly been encouraged by the attendance at the micro cinemas in Paris, amazed, really, and ensured no such audience currently exists for this in my home town of Seattle. However, the 1:30 screening of Beowoulf at the Brady was a private screening for yours truly. Maybe it was just the time of day on a Thursday and the rather disreputable film (though I find BEOWOULF 
somewhat underrated, and the experience of seeing it in the weird and wonderful 10th by myself was as strange as it gets), but I worry about Le Brady and its ilk. While the Latin Quarter seems wholly able to support this sort of enterprise, the 10th, and Arrondissements like it (Montparnasse and the Bastille spring to mind) seem to need the blockbuster mentality to survive. If you are reading this and care about such matters, please go see a movie at the Brady and L’Archipel.

Brady Staircase - not for the girthy
If you are a person of size attending the Brady, you might want to think about having a pee at one of the many cafes, brasseries or other establishments in the area before going. I found myself, after a day of wandering and one too many Keffe Trapiste Ales, needing to navigate the perilous staircase down to the W.C., much to the delight of the Brady staff.   I found that if you walk very deliberately, step by step, with your arms held high in the air, you can make it in one piece.


The 11th Arrondissement

The Bastille is a great, historic, happening middle class neighborhood with the largest quantity of affordable yet exquisite cuisine in the city. But is a bit of a cinema graveyard, I am afraid. I will call out on cinema simply because it represents the last two (along with the Majestic Passy) theaters in the dying Majestic chain.

Majestic Bastille 4 Rue Richard Lenoir Metro: Charonne (9)

A rather sad, dated looking neon marquee with graffiti tag (MOZO – wasn’t that a Led Zeppelin album?) announces this small twin cinema from the slowly disappearing Majestic chain. After a short run as a porno theater in the 80s (it really maintains that look, doesn’t it?), the Majestic sat dormant until making a comeback in 1995 with remodeled stadium seating. Inside, many remnants of the original Art Moderne design remain.  One has to assume the graffiti has been cleaned up by now.

The 12th Arrondissement   Cinematheque du Francais 51, Rue de Bercy 75012 Metro: Bercy (6) or (14)

Screw Disneyland, the Cinematheque du Francais is the Happiest Place on Earth.
Happy accident on Day Four in 2008. I was headed up to check out the UGC Cine City Bercy, which was getting rave reviews in my research as being a modern theater to beat all modern theaters, but I had written the address down incorrectly, and blundered around the Bercy area (which due to a generic nature and complete lack of landmarks and distance from landmarks it is very easy to get disoriented) for a while before giving up the ghost.

I had intended on going to the Mecca for all film geekdom the Cinematheque Francais later in the day for the Howard Hawks retrospective screening of El Dorado after seeing Gone Baby Gone at the UGC. With the time 12:15 and no movies on my agenda, I decided to swing by the legendary Cinematheque. Turns out they are doing a Films of Africa series, which is a rather inspired mixture of films by Sembene, Sisse and other African masters, and Africa seen by Hollywood (Tarzan of the Apes and the like).

On the bill at 12:30 (miraculously, at the precise moment I arrived—whew! Parisians do NOT like it when you arrive late to a film, especially at the Cinematheque) was a film I had never head of, The Killers of Kilimanjaro, starring Robert Taylor as a rock-‘em-sock-‘em engineer (yes, he is an engineer who literally kicks ass and makes out with a hottie half his age) bent on building a railway in the darkest of Africa, Donald Pleasance in a terrible fake bead, Anthony Newley as comic relief, and Lions, Giraffes, Rhinos, Hippos, Crocodiles, you name it. The stock footage of African wildlife, a staple of the cinema after the success of King Solomon’s Mines, is voluminous and highly entertaining.

The film is directed by a cipher by the name of Richard Thorpe, who is the definition of journeyman hack (amongst his credits: Ten Thousand Bedrooms and Jailhouse Rock), but the film has an innocence and unpretentious charm of a film made by a bunch of craftsmen with a job to do. The kicker is it was a cinemascope production, and the state-of-the-art facilities at the Cinematheque was fully equipped to handle it.

Had only the print been in state of the art condition. Instead, it allowed one to hearken back to the old days at the kid’s shows at the Roxy in Bremerton, when we were the last town in the loop to receive prints, and often had to deal with awful soundtrack pops, savaged sprockets causing absurd ellipses in the action and dialogue. Stripes in the prints, the whole nine yards. giving the whole experience a wonderful post-modern, MST3K kind of vibe. I loved it every second of it.

And therein lay the problem, as my enjoyment often manifested in howls of laughter.  In front of me was a young, rail-thin pale nerd who had obviously tried very hard to cultivate a JL Godard look, complete with all black attire and horn-rimmed glasses. Every guffaw from me at a unintentional jump cut, resulted in a squirm, a puff of air and a slow head shake of disgust from him.   Did he think the great avant-gardist Richard Thorpe was indulging in some sort of deft distancing effect and deserved more respect?

I guess he felt campy appreciation of a minor if rousing piece of work was inappropriate. And you know what? I think I agree with him. I despise laughing AT rather than WITH a film, it irritates the hell out of me in most cases. But come on, this was Killers of Kilimanjaro.  Richard Freaking Thorpe!!

After the screening, as I left, and he was outside smoking his inevitable Godardian Galouises. I gave him a little nod, and he just looked away and smirked. Oh, he knew who I was. But why didn’t he realize we were Brothers?

Nearby (inside)….The Bibliotheque (BIFI) at the Cinematheque

Formerly located at 100 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Bibliotheque has taken up permanent residence, rather appropriately, in the Cinematheque. I was a bit baffled as to what I was supposed to do once I got there, but a very nice clerk sensed my addlement and walked me through the rather simple computer program they had there that allowed you to keyword search on the entire contents of the Bibliotheque. While I didn’t necessarily find any earth shaking dvd or VHS copies of long lost films of long forgotten directors, the Bibliotheque did have an awesome collection of print articles on any figure you could name. You could literally follow, say, Jacques Tati’s career one article at a time with the archives collected here, if one were to have the patience.

The real outstanding feature is you can check out any VHS or DVD for 3 Euros and watch it in a private booth. I was short on time, but was still able to fulfill my ambition of watching a Jerry Lewis movie in Paris (he wasn’t playing anywhere in any of the cities theaters while I was there, rather surprisingly). The movie was The Bellboy and I will be damned if it didn’t seem a damn site funnier, not to mention formally bolder, watching it in the city that put him on the map as a serious artist.
Yep, sitting inside on a nice January day in Paris, watching a Jerry Lews movie on VHS. God, I need a life.

UGC Cine Cite Bercy 2 Cour Saint-Emilion Metro: Cour Saint-Emilion (14)
The UGC Bercy opened December 9, 1998, and it was a pretty big deal, especially for such an occurrence in the rather desolate 12th Arrondissement. This movie theater had been planned for a decade, but it couldn't be built until the whole area would be remodeled and the metro station opened. Bercy was a typical place that looked like an old village. Wine was sold in hundreds of small houses. Most of the area was torn down, to be replaced by housing projects, a park, and the cinema. Some houses near the theater were kept and remodeled; they should be used soon as restaurants, wine bars and shops.
A brand new metro line (#14) takes you right next to the former wine houses. Two hundred yards later, you reach the theater. The building is huge, on three levels; it is divided in two asymmetrical parts, joined by the main lobby, a cafe, and bridges on the upper levels; a lot of glass was used for the construction.
When you arrive, you need to go down one of the two large staircases. Disabled people can use an elevator. Beyond the doors, eight box offices greet you. After that, you're in the vast main lobby, with its main (and pretty large cafe area), and a small fast-food concession stand. Auditoriums are numbered in an unusual way. On the left part (East side) are the even numbers; on the right part (West side), the odd numbers. The first digit stands for the level. Auditorium numbers range from 10, left on the first floor, through 34, right on the third floor. Numerous escalators and staircases allow you to change levels.
The auditoriums are all of above-average size for a multi plex. They all have stadium-style seating, wall-to-wall curved screens and DTS sound. They have the UGC Ciné Cité decoration, which means everything is black but the back of the seats (made of brown wood); and the screens, of course. Good news, only two small auditoriums (thirteen out of nineteen at the UGC Ciné Cité les Halles), theater 16 (161 seats, 10 meters wide screen) and theater 17; they are a bit larger than the most of the thirteen small auditoriums at the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles. The largest ones are theaters 31 and 33 (third level, on the right, for those who understood my descriptions!). They can accommodate up to 450 viewers, and have 18-meters (60 ft) wide screens (at their entrance is another smaller cafe). Theaters 21 and 33 are a bit smaller, with 350 seats and 16-meters wide screens. The other auditoriums look alike and are pretty decent, with 200 seats and 13-meters wide screens.

The 13th Arrondissement

The 13th may be one of those neighborhoods we may here about as "Up and Coming" in Paris, the way people talk about the 10th these days.  I know one thing:  it is very underrated in terms of interesting cinemas.
Escurial 11 Boulevard Port Royal  Metro: Les Goeblins (7)

Blvd. Port Royal is one of those long Parisian boulevards that connects several Arrondissements.  You look at the map and are thus tempted to take it from, say, the Latin Quarter to, say, Montparnasse.  But be warned.   There are large chunks of this boulevard that are quite desolate, bereft of anything interesting and decidedly un-Paris-like. 
Then, the next thing you know, bam, there is the Escurial Theater.

This is an old, old theater, founded at the turn of the 20th century, when it was known as The Royal. In the 20s a balcony was erected. n the 80s the owner, a French movie director, Jean Gourguet, was near to selling the theatre to a supermarket. A group of young cinema lovers decided to take the management with a new manner (several films each day and thematic evenings). The most successful was an evening with the STAR WARS TRILOGY.

In 1985 because the projection booth was in a corner they decided to refurbish the building. A new auditorium was added in the balcony with a cozy design and the main auditorium was turned to stadium seating with a new projection booth in the center and a wide panoramic screen. The 50s look of the theatre was preserved and stereo sound added. Behind the huge screen remained the silent movie screen painted on the wall. For a period of time during this era the owner had an apartment right next door and would attend screenings in his pajamas.

The new Escurial Panorama was very successful with first run films. Around 1987 the team sold the theatre to a independent art movie society.

The cinema was renamed the Max Linder Panorama. The first owner of this theatre Max Linder was a star of the silent movies in France. Then the new Max Linder Panorama opened in the 9th Arrondissement on the Grands Boulevards, and the Escurial finally became the Escurial.

They show an interesting blend of art films, mostly of the foreign (to this Yank) language variety.

Gaumont Goeblins 66 Avenue des Goeblins  Metro: Les Goeblins (7)


Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the Theatre des Gobelins belonged to a show business family part of a theatre chain. Only two of these theatres are still live theatres of Paris (Montparnasse and the former Batignolles, now Hebertot).

The front side very narrow and the auditorium is what is called in French "theatre a l'italienne' with two balconies. The theater turned to movies in the 30s.

The theatre lost his elegant design during the Sixties. By that time it was a filthy place but new owners renovated the building and constructed their flat in the balcony lobby.

Around 1975 a huge refurbishing for the creation of two screens was done, the screen one in a circle shape and stadium seating (unusual at that time) was very comfortable with 200 seats and screen two on the ground floor level seating 400.

The independent owner sold to Gaumont in the 90s and renamed the theatre the Gaumont Italie. That chain was running most of the screens (10) of that district of Paris such as the Gaumont Grand Ecran, a wide screen movie theatre opened in 1992.

But the profit of this theatre was decreasing and Gaumont closed the former Theatre des Gobelins in November 2003. The facade has been landmarked.

But Gaumont closed it there and opened it across the street at 66 Avenue Des Goeblins, and now features 2 screens and rather interesting programming featuring top of the line art films.  Definitely a cut above the usual Gaumont programming, and demonstrative once again of Gaumont’s commitment to historic buildings, and for which we should be thankful.

MK2 Grand Bibliotheque 128 Avenue de France  Metro: Bibliotheque Francois Mitterrand (14)

Once again, the MK2 chain comes through. The Bibliotheque is a modern movie palace (one of the newest in town), that aims to please ‘em all, featuring a vegetable garden, boutiques, restaurants, and the usual eclectic MK2 programming, thank God.

It seems the simple willingness to go big yet divide into multiple theaters has resulted in the Grand Bibliotheque being one of Paris’ biggest success stories while the much sadder tale of the Grand Ecran Italian, which  could not sustain itself with one really, really big screen, speaks to the difficulty of single screen theaters even in as movie mad a place as Paris.

14th Arrondissement  -  Montparnasse
Millions of words have been spent trying to capture the particular allure and history of Montparnasse.  For some, it is enough just to realize this is the Arrondissement where Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises, and is the home of some of the most storied cafes in world history.
As a cinema point of destination?  Meh, with a couple of exceptions and in comparison to its Left Bank brother, the Latin Quarter.   It is dominated by chains (Montparnasse, in its way, is the scruffier brother of the 8th Arrondissement in that it attracts many tourists and its places of business tend towards pleasing the largest common denominotor within its particular demographic).  It does have one of the great cemeteries of Paris, with its many inhabitents from the world of film.  So by all means visit, but don’t necessarily plan a day of movie going.
Le Bretagne 73 Boulevard du  Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue (4)

Le Bretaigne is that rare independent theater in a district dominated by chains, and generally has the pick of the top independent release of the world cinema at a given time. Le Bretagne is also a functioning Opera House.


Nearby…the Four Cafes

One cannot spend a day in Montparnasse without coming face to face with its four famous cafes, subjects of books, legends and, now, astonishing touristic activity.
Le Closerie des Lilas 171 Blvd. Montparnasse
Le Select 99 Blvd. Montparnasse
La Coupole 102 Blvd. Montparnasse
Le Dome 108 Blvd. Montparnasse
For much more on the legendary cafes of Montparnasse, please click the link for the book LITERARY CAFES OF PARIS in the “Books for the Wandering Cinephile” list.  Le Select, in fact, has an entire book dedicated to it (The Select Crowd), a marvelous piece complete with whimsical sketches of its many visitors, famous and otherwise.

Sept Parnassiens 98 Blvd. du Montparnasse  Metro: Vavin (4)

The 1970s were a fruitful time for new cinemas to open in Montparnasse. At this prime location, surrounded by the 4 cafes and the bustle of Montparnasse, plans for a cinema with five screens, a video arcade, a bar and a restaurant eventually opened as a seven screen multiplex in 1978. This is an original “mall” cinema, but the mall itself is so innocuous (dominated by mom and pop shops and emporter—take out-- food joints) that one hesitates to accord any nefarious attributes to it.

This theater is one of several in Montparnasse owned by the Multicine chain, with its distinct interiors of red velvet seats, red walls and curved screens.

Miramar 3 rue du Depart  Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue (4)

The beautiful front of the Miramar can be seen when exiting the subway station, the might Montparnasse Bienvenue. This three-screen complex is part of the Rytman chain, very important in the area. The two largest auditoriums were created from the division of the former 1000-seat auditorium. Like the other Rytman theaters in Montparnasse, the auditoriums had a clock on a wall (so that viewers wouldn't miss their trains?), and the constant clicking every minute bothered the audience; the clocks were removed in the late 80s.

The programming at the Miramar may be cookie cutter but inside the Miramar is anything but. Located behind the box office, Salle 1 was created in the 80s and replaced the orchestra of the old auditorium. Theater One is the Grand Salles, with a 43ft screen covered by a curtain, and 550 velvet seats. The sound is digital, both Dolby SRD and DTS, however, patrons may find themselves disturbed by the vibrations from the metro, which runs right below the auditorium.

A marble staircase leads to the second floor and Salle 2, which replaced replaces the former balcony. It has 320 seats; viewing conditions are correct, but the 25ft screen is a bit too small for the auditorium. It is equipped with Dolby SR.

Theater 3 is located at the top of the building; it replaces a former apartment, and is a long corridor. It is one of the last auditoriums in Paris with a transparent screen, behind which is the projection booth. The screen is 14ft wide, and the sound is mono. Let’s face it, if you are going to the Miramar, gravitate towards Salle 1 (unfortunately, this is likely where the John Rambo’s of the world will be playing).

L'Entropot 7 Rue Francis de Pressensé  Metro: Pernety (13)

The Entrepôt is an art house cinema opened in a converted warehouse (Entropot is translated as Warehouse) in 1977 by cinema fanatic and future French president François Mitterrand. It houses three screening rooms, a bar and restaurant with one of the best garden terraces in Paris. Films are often followed by debates, and there are regular live jazz and world music evenings throughout the year.

Nothing too fancy at L’Entropot. The sound is mono and the screens definitely mid-sized. But compared to most of the large chain theaters in this district, L’Entropot staunchly maintains and supports the spirit of the Cineaste, and deserves your support.

Denfert Theater 24 Place Denfert-Rochereau  Metro: Denfert-Rochereau (6)

What a charming little corner of the world is the Place Denfert-Rochereau, and its centerpiece is the Art Deco marvel Le Denfert Theater. Sporting one of the few remaining in tact balconies in Paris, a fifties neon font on the marquee and a wonderful mixture of art films from around the world, Le Denfert is the kind of place everyone would dream of having as their neighborhood theater.

The presence of a florist on one side and a charming Italian Ristorante on the other only augments the sense that this is your place, and the tourists crowding into the theaters on the Blvd. Montparnasse may not be quite as welcome here.  In fact, they may never find it.

Nearby…The Montparnasse Cemetery

Rest in Piece, Henri
A must-stop for cinephiles, particularly those light in the wallet (the Cemetery and its map are free) this is the final resting place for the inspiration for this book, Monsieur Henri Langlois, among many, many others from the world of cinema.

Nouvelle Vague Icon goddess and tragic victim Jean Seberg also calls this eternal home. Note the copy of Cahiers du Cinema with her from Bonjour Tristesse, left by some adoring film nerd, on the gravesite.

Literary heavyweights like Expat Sammy Beckett and egghead extraordinaire Johnny Sartre, buried side by side with his beloved Simone de Beauviour, are six-feet under here as well. This spot makes a nice break between screenings at Le Denfert and Mistral, if you have had your fill of or are too poor for the Four Cafes.

Mistral Theater 70 Avenue du Général Leclerc  Metro: Alesia (4)

Way the hell on the outskirts of the 14th rests this early 20th century neighborhood theatre, which received an art deco remodeling in the 30s. After WW II, a new cinema was constructed inside the walls of the old theatre. The new auditorium had a big and deep balcony and stalls at the ground floor and could seat 1000. The luxurious lobby is still more or less in tact.
It was renamed Mistral, a wind which blows at the south of France, because the location was near the southern border of Paris. In the 60s the Mistral was a first run movie theatre and had 70mm equipment installed in order to present HOW THE WEST WAS WON. At Christmastime, Disney movies were a big hit each year. Many James Bond movies were hits there too.

The wide screen was hidden by a curtain which opened from the left side to the right which took more time than a two piece curtain. In 1972, the theatre was twinned, and later, the upper lobby the basement and the ground floor space were rebuilt giving four screens added to the 420 auditorium. While the name UGC is not prominent at the Mistral, be warned that they do the programming here, so you are not likely to get very many bold titles to choose from.

Bienvenue Montparnasse 8 bis Rue de l'Arrivée  Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue (4)

Technically in the 15h Arrondissement, the Bievenue is on the cusp of Montparnasse but firmly rooted in the Seventies.  Now a Gaumont-owned theater, it opened as an idenpendent first run theater in 1972

The first years were successful but the location was in the shadow of the massive Montparnasse tower, which limited foot traffic and, ultimately, business for the Bievenue Montparnasse. The theater is now considered old fashioned, but I rather enjoyed its unpretentious air and its fair pricing structure.

The 15th Arrondissement

Le Grand Pavois 364 Rue Lecourbe Metro: Lourmel (8)

Clearly your point of destination in the 15th Arrondissement, The Grand Pavois (Great Shield), although its prices are low and it only has three theaters, features what may be the widest selection of movies in Paris. Taking a fairly rare approach does this little trick: here, no film is shown more than three times a week.

As a result, there is room on the schedule for more than sixty films at any given time. Films range from the classics to more recent (never new) movies, including quite a few cult films.

In the 70s a huge condominium called Le Grand Pavois was built next to the limit between the 15th district of Paris and the suburb.  The development included many shops and one screen first run movie theatre seating 300. Run by an independent theatre chain, this theatre was duplexed a few years after the opening with the single auditorium divided into two screens. The independent operator of the theatre during the 70s had a very successful multiprogramming policy including art movies, cartoons and second run movies. In the 80s the theatre was divided into four screens with wide curved screens and stereophonic sound, with each auditorium seating just 50 but very comfortable.

Cinema St. Lambert 6 Rue Péclet  Metro: Vaugirard (12)

Embrace the St. Lambert, for it is truly one of a kind in this neighborhood, a small theater which has retained its Art Deco look and feel and its independent programming and that funky basement feel one associates with independent theaters in Paris. And they really rotate the titles through – one week when I was there they had 20 separate films screening.
After taking in a film at the St. Lambert, there are two other locations, just below, that are worth visiting despite the fact they are no longer operating as cinemas.
The Kino, today
The Kino, Back in the Day

Kinopanorama 60 Av De La Motte Piquet   Metro: La Motte-Picquet Grenelle

Disappointment set in deeply on this day when I found the old Kinopanarama to be virtually unrecognizable from the outside (even old theaters that have been co-opted often retain some of the look and feel of the original cinema, but the Kino is toast). The research I had done indicated the Kino building was more less in tact and not in use, but I don’t suppose that would be possible in a capitalist megalopolis like Paris.

The interior, which is now a Health Club of all things, on the other hand, gives some hint that, to
A hint of yesteryear
paraphrase that old sentimentalist Sinatra, there used to be a cinema here. I was actually lucky to get this shot of the inside, as there was a manager-type, uptight in a suit and on a cell phone, and he upbraided me for not asking permission to shoot inside. I told him I would delete the picture from my digital camera, but that it would be a pity because it would just be publicity for him. He relented. I suspect he would not be very happy with me if he ever reads this.

Inaugurated in 1959 at the location of the former "Splendid" in Paris, the Kinopanorama is located on the first floors of an apartment building, built at the same time as the theater. It is the work of a property developer, Pierre Pinton.

The auditorium is uncommon. Large, but not gigantic, with a balcony, it is equipped for the Kinopanorama, a Russian competitor of the Cinerama (also with an image provided by three different projector), and a very heavy equipment (three couple of projectors...), imported from the USSR. Kinopanorama movies will be played on the very curved 24m screen, starting with "Two Hours In USSR", which will attract 850,000 people in almost two years.

This offbeat concept would soon give way to more convential screenings in 70mm, which would become the Kino’s trademark.   The early 80s were the glory years, with screenings from ET to THE MISSION to EMERALD FOREST to DUNE, all in 70mm, pulling in hundreds of thousands of ticket sales, a hard thing to contemplate for a single-screen theater today.
It was not uncommon for Parisian moviegoers to drive or ride metros or take the train for miles, wait in the rain or in the cold for an hour or more, to see movies in the only theater really worth going to, in their own languages, most of the time in 70mm, on its 24m screen (much larger than its competitors'). Its annual box-office grew from 300,00 in 1981 to 450,00 in 1986, the Kinopanorama becoming the second most popular auditorium in Paris after the Grand Rex.
In 1988, the Kinopanorama was the first in the world equipped with the new STS Omnidirectional sound system, a kind of French competitor to Lucasfilms' THX.  In 1991, the technology race kept on going, with the installation of the new CDS digital sound system, for the release of THE DOORS.

In 1992, the Kinopanorama was sold to Gaumont, at about the same time Moviegoers started changing their habits. The Kinopanorama wasn't the only giant screen in town, and 70mm print became scarce. Other large screens could be found at the Gaumont Italie, the UGC Ciné Cité les Halles and Bercy, and to some extent at the Gaumont Aqua boulevard, Pathé Wepler, and Gaumont Parnasse). The Kinopanorama played movies you could see in other places, with good projection standards you could also find in other places. There was no need to ride miles to the Kino. Eventually, the Kinopanorama was left with its local viewersand even  the director's cut version of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS played to an almost empty auditorium

Then, in 1998, the end. The Kino simply seemed to have suffered from being too new to be classified as a protected monument of Paris, and too independent to survive the glut of multiplexes and the dying of the light of movie going in Paris.

Saint Leon 11 Place du Cardinal Amette  Metro:  Dupleix

Still in tact from its 1930s origin as a Cine Club, the Saint Leon never actually functioned as a public cinema, yet still took great care to achieve the classic Art Deco interior of its ilk from the day.  One can close ones eyes and imagine Truffaut, Godard, Rivette and the boys crowding in here for screenings, sitting on the floor, right in front of the screen.
This building functions today as a community center, but since it is alleged to be untouched, it might still be a great glimpse into what the neighborhood cinemas of Paris looked like when Jean Renoir was shooting RULES OF THE GAME. 

The 16h Arrondissement

The Majestic Passy 18 Rue de Passy Metro: Passy

The lone remaining operating cinema in the 16th, which once held host to some of the greats: the Ranelegh, the Empire, the Mozart Pathe. I was not able to get to the Passy in my visits, but here is the info, courtesy of the heroes at Cinema Treasures (there is information on the above-mentioned trio of defunct theaters in this district as well).
The Royal Passy opened in 1937 and was located in a new building on the first floor with huge staircases leading to a large foyer and lobby with a view on the rue de Passy. The auditorium seated 750. Next to the theater entrance at the ground floor was a "single price" store, which is now a Prisunic supermarket.

For years the Royal Passy was a second run theatre with family and neighborhood patrons. In 1977 a change of owners occurred, though the classic design did not change. The new owners spent a large amount of money to renovate and install a new giant screen called Spaciovision, based on Cinerama.

They reopened with a Cinemascope print of HOW THE WEST WAS WON.  The screen was made in strips and was deeply curved (advertisements at that time announced 3D effects, which wasn't actually the case). Patrons were a little bit disappointed but with stereo sound and a 70mm print policy, the Broadway challenged the Kinopanorama.

But around 1980, there was no future for such a screen. The Broadway went dark and later became a fur coat store.

In 1994 there was no movie theatre left in the 16th district and the building underwent a major remodeling with three screens, and still a huge lobby and was reopened, operated by an independent chain and called the Majestic Passy.

The Majestic is now a first run theatre with a wide screen 650 seat auditorium. The two other auditoriums seat 180 and 120. As of 2009, the seating capacities of the auditoriums are 318, 171 and 148.

Nearby….the Musee du Vin!!   5 Square Charles Dickens

Only in Paris!!  An ancient stone and clay quarry that has been used by 15th century monks as a wine cellar, is now a museum celebrating the history of wine making.  A bit pricey (12 Euro entry), but sounds cool.


The 17th Arrondissement

Cinema MacMahon 5 Avenue Mac Mahon  Metro: Charles DeGaulle-Etoile (1) (2) or (6)

The MacMahon is so significant a landmark in Paris it actually has a designation on the Plan du Quartier in the Charles DeGaulle Etoiles metro station, an unheard of thing usually reserved for the official tourist spots of the city. In the shadows of the Arc de Triomphe, the McMahon has a rich history, some of it the kind that can only occur around the cinemas of Paris.

The MacMahon opened in 1938, taking over an old live theater, but didn’t really find its feet until after the occupation (at which time, the theater was literally occupied by the Nazis) when it determedly featured almost exclusively the American films the French had been denied all those years prior to and during WW II. This created a divisiveness amongst the critical constituency and cinemagoers alike (what, exactly, was wrong with French cinema, the critics of the MacMahon wondered). It cannot be understated how important this programming was in forming both the Auteurist theory and the Nouvelle Vague, as the unpretentious, movie-movie American films that were exposed here for the first time served as a revelation to the young critics who formed both the theory and filmmaking that would change the world in the 50s. Proponents of this cinema were come to be known as MacMahonists. and were diametrically opposed to the Caheirists, named for the famed magazine Cahiers du Cinema, who tended more towards “great works” of the European cinema.

Only in Paris, right, could such a heated battle be waged over something as friviolous as the cinema.. And it got fairly nasty this fight, as it was played out in the magazines of the day. Hard to imagine today there being such battle lines being formed, unless one counts that whole Kevin Smith vs. P.T. Anderson thing that happened a while back and now seems so frivolous since Anderson has so thoroughly wiped the floor with Smith.

Little seems to have changed at the MacMahon to this day. There are no unfortunate signs of ill-planned remodels, no splitting into multiple theaters to maximize profits here. In fact, the MacMahon is open only Friday through Sunday. The tickets are still the tear-off variety, prices are quite reasonable (in the 6 Euro range at this writing). The large pictures of Fritz Lang, Joseph Losey, Otto Preminger and Rauol Walsh, the directors designated “the Four Aces” by the MacMahonist group, remind us that the fire still burns for the ideology that made the place what it is.

And the programming doesn’t seem to have changed much either, as PAT AND MIKE (French translation: MISS WINS ALL) was featured here, and a more typical American film with its emphasis on sports, there never was. I watched it with a group of mostly quite elderly French people, cute couples walking each other arm and arm through the aisles. I imagined them revisiting Cukor’s delightful Tracy-Hepburn for the first time since first seeing it, perhaps here at the MacMahon, in 1952.

The 18th Arrondissement - Montmartre

Montmartre may be the neighborhood for that beloved imp Amelie, and may well be the very neighborhood one imagines when thinking of Paris, but it isn’t much for still-operating cinemas. The legendary Barbes Place, Cine13 and Trianon are late and lamented and taken over by other businesses, with little remaining of the original facades or interiors.  However, one legend remains.

Studio 28 10 Rue Tholoze Metro: Abssess (12)
One of the seminal legends in the annals of Paris movie going history, however, the Studio 28, still operates, and is a must-visit. It was the host of a notorious screen of the Bunuel/Dali surrealist classic L’Age D’or, which caused rioting in the streets by right-ring extremists (only in Paris!). This event was the inspiration for the Pixies song Debaser.

The Studio 28 still certainly has the exterior appearance that little has changed since then, and while I doubt anyone will be rioting over the latest Fatih Ahkin film, say, it still programs boldly (after a disturbing change of ownership and a short run as an Avant Premiere theater in the 80s) and treats their moviegoers as if they still hold these same sort of passions for the Seventh Art.

Replacing a cabaret, the Studio 28 opened in 1928 staunchly as an art house specializing in controverisal experimental films. It was a meeting place for various artists painters writers, as Montmartre was very much a center for this sort of bohemian in those days. In 1932 a new owner started programming mostly American movies, among them the Marx Brothers' movies, unknown in France at that time. A statue of the Marx Brothers is still in the bar. In 1948, two brothers began operating the Studio 28 and gave new life to the theatre. In 1959, they started a multi program policy of mostly art movies. The auditorium sat 200 on the floor level and was decorated by light fixtures designed specially by Jean Cocteau.

It was a family business, with one of the brothers as the projectionist, the mother at the box office, and the wives as usherettes. From the small facade, a narrow foyer with a bar gave lead to a lobby and then to the auditorium and a lovely garden.
Around the 80s, a difficult period for the Studio 28 began. The son of the owner took over the management of the theatre with a new policy of "avant premiere". Some financial help from the city of Paris gave the opportunity to renovate and upgrade the theatre. Now the Studio 28 keeps the charm of the old days, but with Dolby sound, a wide screen, air conditioning, 170 comfortable seats and a lovely restaurant in the garden area, where you can have a drink before and after the movie. 

And, of course, the Studio 28 has received recent notoriety as being the movie theater where Audrey Tatou sits with doe-eyed wonder starting at a movie in AMELIE (there are some exteriors in that film that capture the Studio 28 as well).

Pathe Wepler 140 Blvd. de Clichy Metro: Place de Clichy (2) or (13)

The tale of two cinemas, the Avenue De Clichy, which is the dividing line between the 17th and 18th Arrondissements. It hosts both the Pathe Wepler, the very definition of artless megaplex on the 18th side (12 Screens in all!), and the wonderful Cinema des Cineastes on the 17th side. If dubbed Hollywood pictures, John Rambo and Asterix are your thing, then by all means visit the Wepler, which apparently has fantastic projection, sound and seating, but for the love of all that is holy choose instead to walk across the street to the Cineastes. Your brain, if not your butt, will be grateful.

Cinema des Cineastes 7 Avenue de Clichy Metro: Place de Clichy (2) or (13)

Built as a music hall where Maurice Chevalier sang in 1906, this theatre was rebuilt in 1932 as a newsreel cinema. Dark for a few years, it reopened in 1937 as Les Mirages, a one level movie theatre on a very busy avenue showing popular movies. The Art Deco auditorium originally had a 750 seat capacity. It was acquired by the Pathe chain in 1973 and became a triplex named the Pathe Clichy 4-5-6. The main auditorium kept a 500 seat capacity.

A refurbishing took place in 1991 with wide screens added and more comfortable seats with first run movies in French. In 1995 the Pathe chain acquired a third cinema close to the two others on the other side of the avenue in order to build a multiplex. The Pathe Clichy went dark for a while but was bought by ARP (an association of famous French producers and directors). The building was completely gutted and gave way to a very avant garde three screen movie theatre including stadium seating with an up to date design, digital sound, and a bar. It also features rare movies and film festivals.

Today, the Cinema des Cineastes stands as one of Paris' best art houses, regularly landing sneak previews and exclusive engagements of the best new foreign and avant-garde films.

Nearby…Montmartre Cemetery

The third and by far easiest to navigate of the three major Paris cemeteries, this is the one with
Adieu, Mr. Truffaut
the most graves of significant figures from the cinema per square meter. Included are Henri-Georges Clouzot and Sacha Guitry, both of whom were receiving major retrospectives when I was in Paris, Clouzot at Le Champo, Guitry prominently featured in the exhibition hall at the Cinematheque. Truffaut is here, too, taken way, way too young.

The 19th Arrondissement

The IMAX Geode 26 Avenue Corentin Cariou  Metro: Porte de la Villette (7)

Located with the Science and Industry Park in the wonderful modern Parc la Villette, the Geode is an impressive architectural structure even if you don’t go in for that whole IMAX thing. Inside the giant ball is an awe-inspiring 400 seat theater with giant hemispheric screen measuring 1000 m2 across and 26 m in diameter.

There are only a few theaters in Paris equipped to show 70mm and the Geode is one, obviously. One only wishes they would try programming some original 70mm films here (PLAYTIME, anyone??) instead of the usual Imax fare.

MK2 Quai de Loire and MK2 Seine 7, quai de la Loire and 4, quai de la Seine
Metro: Jaures (2) (5) or (7)

Is it any wonder I have a fondness for the MK2 chain? They seem to actually take the filmgoers experience primarily into account when designing and programming their theaters.

Their remarkable twin cinemas along the Seine in the 19th Arrondissement is certainly proof of this, complete with a small tug boat, the Zero for Conduite, that takes you back and forth between the two cinemas, that is inspired as much by cinephilia as profit (though if one were to be inspired by Vigo it would seem L’Atalante would be a more appropriate name for a tugboat).

Each of the twin cinemas is equally impressive, especially on moonlit evenings. Each has a
bookstore and restaurant/café inside, each has MK2’s interesting programming and state of the art projection and sound. It really is a perfect place to give yourself over completely to film going, particularly because the surrounding area is rather non-descript and some might even say a little dangerous (though I personally saw no evidence of this). So take a stroll along the Canal St. Martin and take in a film at each of these wonderful modern cinema palaces. Maybe you will get lucky and Le Peniche (see below) will also be screening something that night.


Le Penich Barge Cinema 63 quai de Seine Metro: Laumiere (5)

While we are on the theme of boats...Frankly, I simply got lucky to find Le Peniche. I wandered all around Parc le Villette looking for a barge that looked able to host both opera and film screenings, and there were many candidates, but none called Le Peniche. None of the research I had done had given me a specific address, so I hoped I would just stumble upon it.

(I have subsequently discovered a reliable address and url, which are above)

And stumble I did, but only after giving up trying to find it and deciding to make my way over to the Quai de Loire and the twin MK2 Seine cinemas and low and behold there was Le Peniche (French for Barge), not 100 meters from the MK2 Quai de Loire!

I can’t say for certain what Le Peniche’s current agenda is regarding film.  The url referenced above seems to indicate Le Peniche is for opera only, these days.   In the past, screenings have occurred there regularly, but there was no evidence either on the barge or certainly in my weekly Pariscopes that any screenings were currently taking place. I believe this must surely be Le Peniche, when it is operating, is strictly a warm-weather set up. But what an absolutely magical place to see a film, eh?
The 20th Arrondissement
This working class, highly ethnically mixed district on the outskirts of Paris (with some of the best Cous-Cous in Paris) is best known for Pere Lachaise cemetery and one of the world’s greatest Flea Markets, the Marche Aux Puces de Montreuil.  If you are in the area for either or both of these things (and both are strongly recommended!!), there is but one theater, but it holds no small amount of historic intersest, and is run by MK2 so there is probably something interesting showing there.
MK2 Gambetta  6 Rue Belgrand  Metro: Gambetta

The original Gambetta palace was just that, a 1,500 seat arena designed by renowned architect Henri Sauvage.  Gaumont ran the theater starting in 1928, and ran that way until the 1970s and its inevitable triplexing.  In the 1980s, two more screens were added to the complex, leveraging an out of business storefront right next door.
The Gambetta ran as an Indy through the 90s, until the MK2 chain came in, took control, and did a refurbishment, including adding a bar!  It is now strictly first run, but does include some of the most high-profile independent films in their programming rather than the run of the mill blockbuster.