When in Paris, you might as well do things the right way; drink at the bistros of the belle époque, buy your vegetables fresh at the marché; bargain your way through the brocantes; and when it comes to going to the cinéma, why not watch your favorite movie stars on the big screens of the most romantic picture houses of Paris?
1. La Pagode
A stunning independent cinéma and architectural marvel nestled in the back streets of the 7th arrondissement, this antique Japanese pagoda was once a lavish party palace built in 1896 by Mr. Morin, then owner of Le Bon Marché department store as an extravagant gift for his wife (who left him for another man not long after).
In the 1970s it was saved from demolition and later listed as one of the historic monuments of Paris. Today La Pagode shows independent original version films in their two theatres adorned with original frescoes, tapestries, and chandeliers.
Film-goers often arrive early to enjoy a drink and a chin wag in the beautiful Japanese garden with bamboos framing the palatial Japanese architecture.
Coming from someone who goes to the cinema about twice a week, the best part for me might have been that there was not a single advert to sit through before the film started– just one little movie trailer which is fine by me.
Website: La Pagode
2. Studio 28
Another little piece of Paris history is Studio 28, the theatre where Salvador Dali premiered one of the first surrealist films, “L’Age d’Or” (The Golden Age), followed by the likes of Charlie Chaplin. The only cinema on the hill of Montmartre, this picture house has been around since 1928 (hence the name) and it’s the very same cinema our little Miss Amélie frequented every Friday night inLe Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain.
Oh– and legendary French director Jean Cocteau decorated the auditorium with the surrealist light fixtures he designed. Not enough reason to go?
There also happens to be a charming beer garden at the back for a pre-drink or even a pretentious post-film culture debate over a bottle of vin rouge.
You won’t catch Spiderman 3 here but Studio 28 doesn’t turn it’s nose up to mainstream cinema either. They simply have good taste in film and this week will be screening quality titles such as Moonrise Kingdom, La Petite Venise and a documentary film on Bob Marley. During July they also have a tradition of playing black & white classics July, it offers a special reduced-fare series featuring international classics like Rebel Without a Cause and Roman Holiday.
Website: Studio 28
3. La Vilette
An free open-air cinema in Paris? The city of romance just keeps on giving. From the 25th of July to August 26th, the Parc de la Villette near the Canal Saint Martin offers both French and English language films, modern and classics, from Wednesday to Sunday.
This year’s program highlights includes Virgin Suicides, Un Homme, Un Vrai, A History of Violence, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Chérie, Je me suis Rajeunir. Pack a picnic, blankets and cozy up with someone under the stars.
Website: La Villette
Rediscover cult English language films and other quality independent VO (version originale) films behind the old Louis XIV stone façade of the Cinèma Action Christine in the back streets of Saint Germain. I know, it sounds odd me telling you to go watch English-language movies while in Paris, but in fact, the French love old American classics.
Parisian actress and Saint Germain resident, Virginie Ledoyen goes most Sundays by herself, “to watch old westerns… when I’m feeling a bit down”, she says, “it’s my favorite cinema. Open since the 1970s, the Christine attracts a faithful clientele of local artists and intellects who often gather in the cinema’s retro lobby before and after screenings.
Screenings: Christine Action
5. La Peniche
My final choice is probably the most unusual cinema of the lot because … well it’s floating. ‘Peniche’ means canal boat in French and this picture house is just that. Moored in the l’Oucq canal of the Parc de la Villete throughout summer, La Peniche screens off-beat films and short films and even offers film-making courses.
It’s become quite the hangout for aspiring directors, producers and writers who come to mingle at the art-house (or art-boat) which regularly hosts film premieres for Oscar nominated titles, salsa evenings and networking events.
Find out what’s going on at La Peniche