Monday, 2 p.m., Paris, Ve borough. Rue Champollion comes back to life with the reopening that day of these three independent arthouse cinemas: Champo, Reflet Médicis and Filmotheque. It is as if containment never existed. As if for three months the narrow artery of the Latin quarter had been cryogenic. Retirees and students (here we are either in our twenties or over sixty years) from all over Paris and its suburbs resurfaced under a blazing sun. Around thirty of them, masks on their faces, line up in front of the Film Library. For many, it was important to come today at least to support their favorite cinema which they can not help but fear the closure. Volunteers including Lou, a young actress from Cours Simon, a protective visor screwed on her head, even came to lend a hand, helping salaried openers to manage the flow of spectators while respecting social distancing. In cinemas as in public transport, one seat out of two is condemned. Only couples, families and friends can stay next door.
“Of course I missed the cinema, exclaims Youssef, a retired demographer, with his big smile and his sunglasses on his nose. I will see two films a day on average, I spend my retirement in the cinema! I take this opportunity to walk, cycle, go to the bookstore. I am enjoying the festivities. ” If the young people present say they have subscribed to Netflix or to the films in replay on Arte, some elderly people yet cinephiles did not watch films of containment. Orphans in their room and sometimes without an internet connection at home, they shunned the programming on TV that they considered to be “mediocre”. So once the cinemas in the Latin Quarter opened, they did not hesitate to go there, no longer fearing for the pandemic.
They are there to (re) see Blue Velvet by David Lynch and Heaven can wait by Ernst Lubitsch. The films on the storefront of these three cinemas, almost exclusively heritage, have not changed since the closure. The attendance of these first two sessions – 41 spectators for the room of 97 people and 24 for that of 60 – is a good omen for François Causse who directs the Film Library alongside his father: “This is normal attendance, he assures. For Blue Velvet, we have almost reached the maximum gauge with regard to health regulations. We will now see if on Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon, we will be forced to refuse people. ” Sitting on the entrance step, Jean-Max Causse, 80 years old, fifty of whom as a cinema manager, benefits from the excitement of this first day: “I live again, he sighs. These three months were sad. We came with my son every day to the Film Library to air and run the machines. Before the pandemic, the only time I saw the cinemas closed was on May 68. Our spectators were on the barricades and we went to join them. It was more flamboyant. ” Of the three cinemas, none fear bankruptcy at the moment and the programming planned before the confinement should not budge. “Compared to the other rooms, we are not subject to filming and going out. It is a chance”, explains Jean-Marc Zekri of Reflet Médicis.
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In Luxor in the XVIIIe arrondissement, Emmanuel Papillon, the manager, is also delighted with this first day. On the bill at this neighborhood cinema: Shadow of Stalin d’Agnieszka Holland, Benni by Nora Fingscheidt or A son Mehdi M. Barsaoui attracted as many spectators as a Wednesday outing. “It’s a special day, the spectators also came by militancy to support their cinema, he explains at the end of the afternoon. The real test is tomorrow. “ If they do not suffer from the absence of blockbusters, the cancellation of the Cannes festival could greatly destabilize them. “We throw ourselves into the void. Normally, we make 5,000 entries per week. We have to succeed quickly in making 3,000 and that without films like Parasite, Les Misérables or the Portrait of the young girl on fire, he says. But we have our card to play. The programming for this summer is interesting: Lucky Strike by Kim Yong-hoon and of course Summer 85 by François Ozon. ”
A unique day
At 8 p.m., at the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles, the largest cinema in Europe and a real thermometer for frequenting French cinemas, the corridors to get to the 27 screens are rather calm, but nothing alarming after a very busy Monday sunny. “It’s a unique day. Spectators come more to the cinema than to the movies. You can’t compare it with any other, explains Patrice Le Marchand. The morning sessions were as busy as those of a good Wednesday. ” Despite the Minister of Culture’s announcement in extremis on Sunday, the UGC team chose for organizational reasons not to exceed a gauge of more than 50%. This constraint did not prevent the Shadow of Stalin, the Good Wife or Girls of joy to make a good start, according to the manager. But these are the repertory films, Eternal Sunshine and Mulholland Drive, who made the most entries.