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Théâtre De L'Empire

The Triumph Of Giant Screens


A very old and large Parisian movie theater, the Empire was inaugurated again February 5, 1962. The auditorium could accomodate up to 1,200 viewers on two levels, and was equipped for Cinerama.

Behind the huge window of 250m2 (2,800 sqft), the large lobby and a beautiful staircase (and an elevator) leads to the auditorium. The viewer could then choose between the 900 leather seats of the orchestra, or the 300 seats of the balcony. He could also choose between several bars, including a "Whisky" bar that only sold Scotch, and a "Champage" bar, only selling... well, you get the picture!

But the most important thing was the auditorium itself. The screen, which was very curved, used all the height available, and was 100ft wide and 33ft high. There were the main projection booth and two additional booths on the sides, used for Cinerama movies.

The 70s were fatal to most large movie theaters, including the Empire which closed down in 1973. The building still looks like it did though. For more than twenty years, the auditorium, which hasn't changed a lot, was was every Saturday for the shooting of television shows, including the very popular "L'Ecole Des Fans", hosted by Jacques Martin. The show stopped two years ago, and the building was sold, but its future is still unclear. Should it reopen as a movie theater, which would be highly unlikely, it would be the second largest Parisian movie theater, behind the Rex, and far ahead of the Bretagne, the Paramount Opéra and the Normandie.

Cinerama

Cinerama is a revolutionary process born in 1952 with the movie "This is Cinerama". The picture is divided into three parts on three different 35mm prints, simultaneously played by three projectors on a very large screen. It was expensive and heavy, but very spectacular; it is the ancestor of cinemascope. For those of us who had never seen a movie in Cinerama, it was possible to recognize it when "How The West Was Won" was shown on tv in widescreen, because two vertical dark lines could be seen. Only eight movies were shot in Cinerama. Today, three movie theaters (in Bradford, England, Dayton, Ohio, and now Seattle) can still play Cinerama movies.

Film Cinerama
Above, the three prints of Cinerama
Below, a 70mm print (Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum)
Film 70mm

More information on Cinerama:

Lumière! In French
Widescreen Museum- The Cinerama Wing
The Neon Movies Still open to Cinerama
Seattle Cinerama Now open again to Cinerama
Seattle Martin Cinerama

Old pictures from "La Cinématographie Française" #1965

Théâtre de l'Empire, 41 Avenue de Wagram, Paris