Paris: The East
Theaters still open are marked in blue.
The nineteenth arrondissement has always been a working-class neighborhood. It's not the most visited by foreign tourists, but it's important for Parisians because it hosts places like the "Géode" (an omnimax theater), the "Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie", the "Cité de la Musique" (no need for translations here) and a beautiful "Parc de la Villette".
The twelfth arrondissement is huge, and one of Paris's greenest because the "Bois de Vincennes" is part of it; toward the center of the city, you go to the Bastille, for instance through the "Coulée Verte" (a narrow and several-mile long park that replaced the old railway) without meeting the cars. The area changed a lot since the Ministère des Finances (Secretary of Treasure) moved there and since the opening of the "Palais Omnisport de Bercy" (a multi-usage hall, often used for the major rock concerts). Other landmarks include the "Gare de Lyon" (a train station), Bercy and the "Place de la Nation".
After the war, these arrondissements offer numerous local movie theaters. But few were to survive to real estate operations and to television. Today, many of these buildings are still there, not always in good condition, and you can sometimes guess their glorious past behind ugly signs and gloomy metal shutters covered with graffitis.
The nineteenth arrondissementDuring the eighties, the nineteenth only counts one first-run movie theater left, the "Trois Secrétan" (three small but decent auditoriums, playing movies dubbed in French, operated by UGC), one second-run theater, the "Météore", and one art theater, the Rialto, or Rialto-Bananas (one small auditorium with the projector behind the transparent screen, art and old movies played in their own languages with subtitles).
But in 1989, the last theater closes down, and the arrondissement becomes the first one in Paris without a movie theater.
MK2 Quai-de-Seine Map
The twentieth arrondissementBeside the three screens of the Gaumont Gambetta, the twentieth owned the Bellevue (that played karate and action movies), and the TEP (that played a few shows each week) that closed down in the mid-eighties. The Gaumont Gambetta had a beautiful front, and theater 1, with 600 seats, is the largest at the East of Paris. In 1985, Gaumont sells the place, which could kill it, but it's taken over by a dynamic team. The largest auditorium was then given a beautiful sixteen meter (55 ft) wide screen, one of the largest in Paris at this time, and superb THX sound. Three new auditoriums are built in the basement. The five largest auditoriums were equipped with Dolby Stereo sound, which was uncommon. Movies are dubbed in French.
When he moved east, Marin Karmitz took over the Gambetta, and renamed it 14-Juillet Gambetta, then MK2 Gambetta. Like its other complexes, MK2 tried to play movies in their own languages (V.O. for original version), starting with "Deconstructing Harry" in January 1998, then later with Kundun, almost a suicide in the area, but it did not work very well, and the vast majority of movies are still dubbed in French. But MK2 is the only circuit in France that tries V.O. in every complex. Today, the largest theater is equipped with digital sound, but THX seems to have disappeared; if this is true, Paris lost 75 % of its THX theaters in the past ten years...
The twelfth arrondissement
The Cinéphone became a fast-food restaurant, a gym, and of course a supermarket!
At the beginning of the eighties, the twelfth arrondissement hosted six cinemas, but four of them were going to close down. Near "Porte Dorée", the Athéna (formerly Zoo Palace because it was close to the "Zoo de Vincennes") had two auditoriums, 300 and 100 seats, operated by Gaumont, and playing first-run movies dubbed in French. The cinema closed down in 1985, and was replaced by a church. Not far, the Daumesnil is a single-screen art theater, with 400 seats and an eight meter (30 ft) wide screen. It closed at the same time, and was torn down and replaced by an apartment building.
The two other cinemas were the UGC Gare de Lyon, and the Trois Nation, that were to survive and grow bigger.
UGC Lyon Bastille, originally one auditorium, seven today.
Close to the Bastille area which experience remodelling and a real-estate hysteria that went with the construction of the opera, the UGC Gare de Lyon, formerly Lyon Pathé, was renamed UGC Lyon-Bastille. The large auditorium was divided into four, and three others were added later. The complex had two nice auditoriums with 300 seats each, one with an eight meter (30 ft) curved screen, the otherone with stadium seating, both equipped with Dolby Stereo. Other auditoriums were medium or small. In the basement, theater 7 was all blue and reminded of the cellar it had probably been. For a while, some of the movies were played in their own languages, but that did not last, and today, all movies are dubbed in French. Maintenance was also a problem, theaters were in a bad shape, and screens were dirty. But a long overdue remodelling finally arrived, and an adjacent furniture store was takent back (it used to be part of the theater), and the lobby was enlarged. Only the two largest auditoriums are equipped with Dolby Stereo.
The Variétés-Brunin yesterday, the Nation today.
The "Trois Nation" had no such problems. The theater used to have one large auditorium with a balcony (it was named the Brunin, then the Variétés), which eventually was divided into three smaller auditoriums. Theater 1, that replaces the former balcony, has 400 seats (stadium seating), theater 2 and 3 (200 and 100 seats), smaller but correct, are in the basement. A fourth auditorium, theater 4, was added right of the building, replacing the "Garage Diderot". It opened on August 20th 1986, with Alain Corneau's "Le Môme", and yes, I was there! The auditorium is rather luxurious, mostly red, has 300 seats (stadium seatings), an eight meter (27 ft) wide screen, and is equipped with Dolby Stereo. Later, it was said that Kinepolis was thinking of buying the place, but gave up when they found out it was impossible to increase the size of the complex. The cinema was operated by the guys who run the Gambetta, and they did it the same way. Before many more prestigious theaters, they equipped theaters 1 and 4 with digital sound (SRD and DTS). Movies were played in French, but the first foreign movie played in its own language was Woody Allen's "Everyone says I love you".
Like the Gambetta, the Nation was taken over by Marin Karmitz, and became the "14-Juillet Nation", then the MK2 Nation. The auditoriums have not changed much. There is still SRD and DTS sound in the theaters 1 and 4, and Dolby Stereo in theaters 2 and 3. Theater 1 has a beautiful volume, the green walls are surprising, but warm; leg room may be a problem for tall viewers, and the brown seats need to be changed. The flat screen is twelve meter (40 ft) wide. Theater 4 got a brand new screen, larger and very curved; viewing conditions are improved (as long as you don't sit at the ends of the rows), but the auditorium looked much nicer with the former screen and the now gone red curtain. Red seats are in good condition, but leg room can be a problem there too. The two small auditoriums are above average, but the grounds vibrates every time the metro passes by.
The Kursaal, then the Vox; always there, but quiet.
Le "Gros Morceau", or the Big Chunk...Last but not least, one movie theater will disrupt everything East of Paris and maybe much further away. December 9, UGC will open a new multiplex, the fourth one and largest in the city, theUGC Ciné Cité Bercy. UGC announced this cinema in 1991, and I really hope the long wait was worthwile. Eighteen auditoriums will accomodate up to 4,500 viewers, the two largest theaters will have 500 seats and eighteen meter (60 ft) screens. But we can fear that all or most of the movies played will be dubbed in French, because it is expected many viewers will come to the suburbs, where V.O. is subject to the worst hate, and the UGC Ciné Cité les Halles could remain the big UGC cinema where moviegoers should see their movies in V.O. Anyway, dreaming is allowed...
One of the largest French multiplexes is being built here...