Independent cinemas in Paris

Where to see classic retrospectives, world cinema and underground screenings

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Le Cinéma du Panthéon

Le Cinéma du Panthéon Karl Blackwell / Time Out

L'Accatone

  • Price band: 2/4

As its name suggests, the Accatone is where fans of Pier Paolo Pasolini come to watch, and watch again, the masterpieces the most disturbing Italian director of his generation. His first film, ‘Accattone’, of course, but also ‘Teorema’, ‘Edipe Re’ and ‘Il Decameron’. This is an uncompromising cinema, set up on a narrow street in the Latin Quarter on the site of a former cabaret. Much like at the Cinéma du Panthéon, the armchairs facing the screen are embellished with names from cinema’s hall of fame: Kurosawa, Tarkovski, Rosselini or Hawks. The films shown are serious stuff, and in the original languages with subtitles, naturally. With around 30 screenings a week, Accatone is an excellent place to improve your cinematic knowledge.

Action Christine

  • Price band: 2/4

In the Latin Quarter’s maze of streets, you can’t miss the Action network’s three cinemas: the Christine, the Grand Action and the Action Ecoles (recently renamed the Desperado). Set up like cine-clubs, their principal mission is to screen restored copies of classic films. Studio Christine first raised the curtain in April 1973. After a chaotic beginning, which ended in the buyout by Action, the Christine finally got into ther stride in 1974. Famous for its programmes of Hollywood masterpieces, it’s the place to cry over ‘Casablanca’ and dream over ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ – but is also worth a visit for its architectural history, with a carriage entrance from the time of Louis XIV.

Le Balzac

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Built in 1935 and boasting a mock ocean-liner foyer, Le Balzac scores highly for design and programming. Jean-Jacques Schpoliansky, the manager, is often found welcoming punters in person. The Balzac awards prizes according to audience votes.

Le Champo

  • Price band: 2/4

The two-screen Champo has been in operation for nearly seven decades, a venerable past recognised in 2000 when it was given historic monument status. In the 1960s, it was a favourite haunt of nouvelle vague directors such as Claude Chabrol. Novel programming includes the occasional Nuits du Champo, a trio of films beginning at midnight and ending with breakfast (€15).

Le Cinéma des Cinéastes

  • Price band: 1/4

Done out to evoke the studios of old, this three-screen showcase of world cinema holds meet-the-director sessions and festivals of classic, foreign, gay and documentary films. Also offers a monthly pass.

Le Cinéma du Panthéon

  • Price band: 1/4

To celebrate its centenary in 2007, the city's oldest surviving movie house opened a tearoom with interior design by Catherine Deneuve. The CinÈma du PanthÈon continues to screen new, often obscure international films and hosts meet-the-director nights and discussions.

Cinéma la Clef

A militantly independent cinema, La Clef (The Key) (formerly Images d’Ailleurs) is a stone’s throw from the Université Paris-III, and constantly educates its audience in politically and artistically engaged films that often don’t go on general release.Debates, festivals and other events fill the two screens (120 and 65 seats), with the lion’s share of the programme given over to documentary cinema (for example, a 2012 retrospective on the remarkable Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman). But La Clef also knows to alternate documentaries with comedy, drama and thrillers.All in all, it’s an elegant, original and intelligent programme in a friendly venue: more than opening doors, La Clef prefers to open up multiple perspectives. The wordplay is easy – but the cinema on the corner of Rue de la Clef carries its name extremely well.

Cinéma Le Trianon

Worth the trip to its far-flung location in the suburb of Noisy-le-Sec, Le Trianon (not to be confused with the ritzy concert venue in Rochechouart) is that rare thing: a cinema that puts on a passionately curated programme of arthouse and world films, and lets you watch them for pittance (€6 for a full-price ticket, down to as little as €3.50 for special screenings). The latest independent fare from France and elsewhere is complemented by regular themed events, such as an Ozu retrospective or the yearly Frano-Arab film festival. A gem.

  1. Place Carnot, Romainville, 93230
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La Cinémathèque Française

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Relocated to Frank Gehry's striking, spacious cubist building, the Cinémathèque Française now boasts four screens, a bookshop, a restaurant, exhibition space and the Musée du Cinéma, where it displays a fraction of its huge collection of movie memorabilia. In the spirit of its founder Henri Langlois, the Cinémathèque hosts retrospectives, cult movies, classics, experimental cinema and Q&A sessions.

Forum des Images

  • Price band: 1/4

Partly a screening venue for old and little-known movies, and partly an archive for every kind of film featuring Paris. Today the Forum's collection numbers over 6,500 documentaries, adverts, newsreels and films, from the work of the Lumière brothers to 21st-century reportage. They have all been painstakingly digitised.

Le Grand Rex

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Opened in 1932, this huge art deco cinema was designed by Auguste Bluysen and its fantasy Hispanic interiors by US designer John Eberson. With its wedding-cake exterior, fairy-tale interior and the largest auditorium in Europe (2,650 seats), this listed historical monument is one of the few cinemas to upstage whatever it screens. Its blockbuster programming (usually in French) is suited to its vast screen; it also hosts concerts and rowdy all-night compilation events. Go behind the scenes in the crazy 50-minute guided tour (Etoiles du Rex), which includes a presentation about the construction of the auditorium and a visit to the production room, complete with nerve-jolting Sensurround effects.

Le Lucernaire

  • Price band: 2/4

Three theatres, three cinemas, a restaurant and a bar make up this versatile cultural centre. Theatre-wise, Molière and other classic playwrights get a good thrashing, but so do up-and-coming authors.

Le Mac Mahon

  • Price band: 1/4

This single-screen, 1930s-era cinema has changed little since its 1960s heyday (tickets are still, delightfully, of the tear-off variety), when its all-American programming fostered the label 'mac-mahonisme' among the buffs who haunted the place. Americana still makes up the bulk of what's on the screen.

La Pagode

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This glorious edifice is not, as local legend might have it, a block-by-block import, but a 19th-century replica of a pagoda by a French architect. Renovated in the late 1990s, this is one of the loveliest cinemas in the world.

Reflet Médicis - Salle Louis-Jouvet

Before becoming a cinema, Le Reflet Médicis was a quality theatre, where giants like Gérard Phillippe and Maria Casarès made their débuts. But despite its promising billings, the Théâtre des Noctambules, as was, became the Reflet in 1964, with three screens on a narrow dark street ideal for watching classic cinema. Apart from world cinema screenings in the original languages, the Reflet also organises debates and meetings with film crews, often from films on national release. Also worth looking out for are the retrospectives of great directors like Renoir, Cukor and Buñuel.

Studio 28

If we had to keep only one cinema in Paris, it might well be Studio 28. Perched high up in Montmartre, this mythical venue has seen a parade of living legends and great classics of cinema pass through its darkened rooms. It opened in 1928 with Abel Gance’s avant-garde masterpiece ‘Napoléon’, and since then hasn’t stopped offering the public the best feature films of every era. Charlie Chaplin, Luis Buñuel, Franck Capra and even the jack-of-all-trades Jean Cocteau have all put in an appearance here. Conceived as a crossroads between cinema and other art forms (photography, painting), the cinema stands out principally for its nostalgic atmosphere. Tea in a shaded garden? Photography exhibition? Avant-première? Here, nothing is impossible.


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