I’ve talked before about my discovering of Cinema and the way I tried to see as many movies as I could and slowly shaped my taste and my understanding of Cinema History. Several people lent me VHS tapes of movies they liked, I also subscribed to a satellite tv offer for a couple of years and watched probably 40% of the TCM France catalog of that period. I would also got to the theaters a lot. For several years, I would go to the theaters between once and three times a week.
Eventually, I had caught up with most of the movies I could afford to buy and went through all of the tapes in my friends collections. I was also a bit more demanding with the movies that came out and would not go to the movies to see yet another action film especially if it was going to be dubbed in French. Still, as soon as a movie by a director on my watch list would come out, I would rush to the theater.
Last year, we bought a projector and a screen that hangs proudly in our living room. We are frequent goers to the local public library where we can rent movies – for free. We subscribe to several VOD services and are rarely out of an old movie to watch (Anthony Mann, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder rank amongs our favorite). We watch between six and eight movies a week! Because I work late and going around in Paris is time consumming, we do not go to the theaters more than twice a month. I would love to go more as I strongly believe cinema should be enjoyed on the big screen, in a dedicated room, with an audience. Yet, the last few times we went, it has been a total disapointment.
About three weeks ago, we went to the theater in Nice. We went to the only theater in town that plays foreign films in their original language. The room was minuscule -and full. The screen was only barely bigger than the one we have at home (and believe me, our living room is not that big). Even worse, the copy was not all so clean. And the whole thing cost some 9.50 euros a person. But that was not so bad…
Last night, we went to the Grand Rex, right in the heart of Paris. The Grand Rex is a big concert Hall where I was lucky enough to see Joan Baez. The concert hall is beautiful with a wonderful accoustic. Sometimes, the concert hall is transformed into a theater. They pull down the biggest screen I’ve ever seen and this is where I saw the Departed with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Di Caprio personally introducing the film. A ticket at the Grand Rex costs 10 euros even and when you see the size of that screen, you know it’s worth it. Yet, last night, for the Telerama Festival, the screening took place in a small room below the concert hall. The seats were old and unconfortable but that doesnt bother me (I’ve sat in screenings in Cannes on the floor because that’s all they had left). The walls were purple. Purple! Is this a theater? The screening was about 20 minutes late and as we waited they played the most horrible music I’ve heard lately. The worse thing was that they never turned off the emergency exits signs which were places way too close to the screen and would bright up the already not dark enough walls. For the first five minutes of the movie, that bright little green light was all I could see.
So, why do we go to the movies? I think theater managers should remember that a DVD costs about 15 euros (and sometimes we buy packs like 7 films for 42 euros), a low end projector costs 400 and a small screen is worth 110. If am going to go to a movie, I expect a theatrical experience. I want film posters in the hall of the theater, I want complete darkness in the room, film soundtracks playing while we wait, a crystal clear copy, perfect sound and an audience that switches off their cell phones. If you can’t deliver, I will watch movies at home.
Little tips for Parisians
The greatest cinema in Paris is the French Cinemathque at rue de Bercy. The big room has a wonderful huge screen and of course they have an amazing program. It’s also extremly cheap. If you want to see a new release and that it plays at Max Linder Panorama, that’s the place to go see it. It’s 10 euros a seat there too but when the film starts, you will know why. Of course, an event in the big room of the Grand Rex is a wonderful experience. Other than that, our theater is the MK2 Bibliotheque. The two big rooms (A and B) are fantastic. If I’m not going to the Max Linder, I will be going to a MK2. I refuse to enter a UGC theater since 2005. Another tip, if you want to reserve the whole cinema room and invite all your friends over, it’s possible at the Entrepot in Paris 14 district. And of course, Paris real treasure are the art and essais theaters like Grand Action, Action Ecole, Action Christine. If you have time to go see some classics over and over and wish to debate all night with hard core cinephiles, Paris is just the greatest place to be.