Going to the cinema in Paris is still a favourite pastime of Parisians and indeed, people around the world. There’s something magical about the whiff of popcorn and a big candy bag full of Wilko fried eggs and giant Haribo fizzy cola bottles that bring back all those childhood memories.
“Just as one recognises the vintage of a great wine by its body, colour, and scent, one recognises a nouvelle vague film by its style.”
Claire Clouzot, Le Cinema Français
Sinking into a comfy velvety seat with a large soft drink and bucket of popcorn is still the best way for many us to forget everything except the silver screen for two blissful hours. And yet, if you asked anyone when cinema was invented and where, you’d be hard pressed to get a correct answer.
In fact, the answer is December 28, 1895, in the city of Paris. It was the Lumière brothers who made history by becoming the world’s first ever filmmakers, presenting their first offering to a private audience at the Salon Indien of the Grand Café in Paris.
Since that day, cinema in Paris has been strongly embedded in Parisian culture and there are still about 150 small independent cinemas screens scattered around the city, each with their unique style and their own genre of film screenings. Unlike most cities, where many small cinemas have closed down due to the power of the large multiplexes, there are numerous associations in Paris that provide grants for those in need of either renovation or modernisation.
Whether you are already a hardcore cinéphile or deeply curious to get under the skin of this spellbinding cultural experience, the best place to set up your base is at the Hôtel Recamier. Located in the heart of the 6th Arrondissement, the neighbourhood has the highest concentration of cinemas, which are all within 10-15 minutes walking distance so your perfect cinema in Paris is never far away.
So here is our guide to cinema in Paris and the city’s Latin Quarter, where you can watch to your heart’s content as many films as your stamina can muster, even into the wee small hours.
If the name doesn’t sound very French, there’s a very good reason for this – it’s Italian. In fact, it is the Italian word for “begger”, and was named after the 1961 Italian film ‘Accattone’, written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Originally used as a cabaret, where artists such as Edith Piaf performed, this art house cinema in Paris has 110 seats, each named after a noted celebrity. However, a word of warning. Those over six feet tall may find the short backed seats quite uncomfortable.
20 rue Cujas 75005 Paris
Classified as an art house cinema in Paris, Le Champo is an old Parisian film institution that was founded back in 1938. Still with its original Art Deco style façade, Le Champo regularly screens French New Wave films, a cultural phenomenon that developed in the 1950s. These movies were notable for their use of jump cuts, natural lighting, on-location shooting, improvised dialogue and plotting, direct sound recording and long takes.
For insomniacs, The Midnight Session, which takes place every month, is a must. It is the perfect cinema in Paris to spend the whole night watching movies. If you plan to stay to stay in your seat until dawn, you can watch three films in a row and, best of all, the price of the ticket includes breakfast.
51 rue des Ecoles 75005 Paris
Cinéma du Panthéon
Built in 1907, Cinéma du Panthéon is one of the oldest running cinemas in Paris. It was bought by the film producer Pierre Braunberger in 1929, who was a strong promoter of the French New Wave. He was also one of the first to screen films in their natural form by keeping them in the original language. French screen legend Catherine Deneuve designed its café, called the Living Room, which has a relaxed, yet sophisticated atmosphere. Perfect, in fact, to enjoy a glass of rouge or light snack.
13 rue Victor-Cousin 75005 Paris
L’épée De Bois
Translated as the “Wooden Sword”, this small art house cinema in Paris dedicates its screenings entirely to French and European films, shown in their original language. It does, however, throw in a blockbuster movie from time to time.
100 rue Mouffetard 75005 Paris
Filmothèque du Latin Quarter
Bought by the screenwriter and actor Jean-Max Causse, this cinema in Paris screens a range of retrospective films. It is also well known for organising a variety of foreign film festivals and offers workshops run by a film critique and historian.
9 rue Champollion 75005 Paris
Le Grand Action
The name speaks for itself. Founded in 1970, this cinema in Paris specialises in screening new prints of old movies. If you are nostalgic for Tinseltown classics and quality US independents, this is the place to get your piece of the action.
5 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris
This art house cinema in Paris has had numerous leases of life since it was first bought in 2009 and renovated to provide a high-tech cinematic experience. Originally a 17th-century mansion, which once housed surgical instruments, its selection of films range from Charlie Chaplin classics to independent films that are targeted at younger audiences and families.
6 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, 75006 Paris
Before turning into a cinema, Reflection Medici was one of the few theatres in the Latin Quarter (which did not have a renowned reputation compared to the nightlife found in Montmartre). Today, it is a popular art house cinema, which brings together the cinéphile community by screening the top 100 retrospective films, as well as organising many seminars and debates. It is also one of the very few cinemas in Paris to have screenings that start from as early as 11.30am.
3 rue Champollion 75005 Paris
Studio Des Ursulines
Even back in 1925, avant-garde cinema was all the rage in Paris. It was the time when actors Armand Tallier and Laurence Myrga started to project films on the site of an old convent for the city’s more cultured audience. Always wanting to be at the forefront, Studio Des Ursulines was also one of the first cinemas to promote the French New Wave movement in the 1950s and offer films for younger audiences (starting at the age of three).
10 Rue des Ursulines 75005 Paris