Celluloid Junkie is proud to have partnered with Vista Cinema for the Cinema of the Month series. Vista is the world’s leading cinema management software solutions company. We won’t just be featuring cinemas whose operators use Vista, but we will surely mention when that is the case, as it is with Pathé, one of Vista’s largest clients in Europe. CJ would like to thank everyone at Vista for partnering with CJ to showcase some of the most interesting, innovative and inspiring cinemas from around the world.
“How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” French President Charles de Gaulle is reported to have said. A similar exasperation could be voiced in France about the sheer variety of cinemas and formats, not to mention local films. But therein also lies the country’s strength, which is what makes it the largest cinema territory in Europe. Few cinemas exemplify this variety and strength like the Pathé Beaugrunelle in Paris.
France has long been Europe’s largest territory by box office, with over 200 million admissions per year; more than twice what its neighbour Germany manages. Part of the reason for this is because French films account for more than a third of admissions – 35% in 2019 and as high as 39.5% a year earlier. In 2018 it had three local films in the Top Five, though last year it only managed one (“Qu’est-ce qu’on a Encore Fait au Bon Dieu?” in third place). Russia may have overtaken it as the European country with the most admissions, but France is very much still the spiritual heart of European cinema culture and business.
France can also lay claim to having the highest number of theatre screens per capita, with 2,040 cinemas, of which 226 are multiplexes and around 6,000 screens. Variety notes that according to a recent CNC study, “On average, French residents went to the theater three times in 2018 – more than in any other European country,” the study said. “Two-thirds of the French population went to the movies at least once.” Significantly 15-24 year olds are the second biggest cinema demographic after the 50-and-over.
CNC estimates that France will have over 100 premium cinema screens by the first quarter of this year. What is interesting is that France is not only ahead of other major markets like Germany and United Kingdom when it comes to ScreenX or IMAX screens, but that it has its own format in cinema chains CGR’s ICE screens, which use luxury recliners and Dolby Atmos, together with Philips former LightVibes technology, to create a total immersive experience. It is now being exported to the United States (at Regal L.A. Live) and the Middle East.
But if you would like to experience the maximum of other formats, when in Paris take a leisurely stroll along the banks of Seine down from the Eiffel Tower until you hit a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty in the 15th arrondissement. Next to it you will find the Beaugrenelle shopping centre, with the distinct egg-yolk yellow colours of Pathé along the side of the ground floor and a long screen showing what’s on offer inside the cinema – not the films, but the formats!
First opened in November 2013, the 10-screen multiplex has had several major additions and make-overs in terms of technology as well as design. Today it features multiple formats under one roof, as well as a very high overall standard for its regular auditoriums, making it one of the top multiplexes in the Paris area. Buy the CinéPass and you could be watching unlimited films there.
As FranceToday reported a year after its opening, it was an immediate hit with Parisians:
City residents have quickly fallen under its spell. For one thing, the multiplex cinema (10 salles) was created by in-demand designer Ora-ïto. “What intrigued me was the idea of the future. I was influenced by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey,” he says. “This cinema is an invitation to travel.” Indeed the hall, or lobby area, channels a futuristic airport.
When you enter the ground level it feels like stepping onto the set of a Kubrick film. The white flowing shapes create a timeless retro-futuristic vibe that doesn’t come off as dated or kitsch. There is plenty of space, but also clever use of lights, traffic flow and information. Significantly the first thing that greets you is a recliner on a pedestal that explains the Dolby Cinema concept. For people working in the cinema industry it might seem obvious what Dolby Cinema is, but we forget that the vast majority of moviegoers still mainly associate Dolby with audio.
The concessions counter is graceful and has a good selection of savory, sweet and fizzy treats, as well as a separate Häagen-Dazs counter. There is a wall of M&M self dispensers, a wall of pick ‘n’ mix sweets and a cute wagon of cookies, that looks ever so slightly out of place (like the ethereal bedroom at the end of “2001”). Starbucks gets a stand-alone serving island. There are good small touches, like the baskets for carrying your concessions purchases to the counter, or the free storage locker where you can leave your motorcycle helmet, or the paper bag to hold your concession purchases as you go to the screen. Downstairs there is a bar, though it is un-manned during the day.
The first movie format you notice as you take the escalator down is the bright sign proclaiming “4DX et ScreenX,” making it one of the first cinemas outside of Korea to combine the CJ 4DPlex immersive seating and premium three-screen formats for maximum immersion. Being over the age of 35 meant that this would perhaps not have been my personal first choice, but the impact that it has is undeniable and the numbers for visitors tell their own story.
Pathé Beaugrenelle was also one of the first cinemas in France/Europe to have the Samsung Onyx LED screen installed. Pathé also proves it’s on the cutting edge by allowing patrons to buy tickets and use their Apple wallet, with a barcode scanner at the entrance. There is thus a pleasing attention to detail in all aspects, which, yes of course, also includes immaculate toilets.
It is not the cheapest cinemas in Paris, given the location and all the amenities on offer. A standard ticket is around EUR €15 euro, though there are plenty of discounts for young and old patrons. Onyx is three euro extra; Dolby Cinema five euro more; 4DX is six euro more and 4DX with ScreenX is a whopping nine euro surcharge; though a standard 3D screening is only a two euro more. Worth getting a CinéPass for EUR €19.90 euro, or as little as EUR €16.90 for the under-26, or why not EUR €33.90 euro for a CinéPass Duo for two? Pathé is incidentally powered by Vista’s ticketing solution and is one of its largest, and by all accounts happiest, clients in Europe.
The choice of auditorium was instead the Dolby Cinema, which at the time was showing “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (yes, this was last summer). As well as having the usual video wall entrance, with good use of Spider-Man animation, the layout of the auditorium was a very well thought-through fan shape. While all Dolby Cinemas have a high standard, this particular Dolby Cinema at Pathé Beaurgunelle is perhaps the best Dolby Cinema that we have yet visited. The spacing of the chairs, the inclination of the rows and of course the top notch sound and audio was as perfect as can be. Added bonus was that it was showing the film in the original language version with French subtitles. An absolute pleasure to visit.
Paris is a city full of elegant, quirky, spectacular and interesting cinemas. It is the only city where you can pretty much be guaranteed a Terry Gilliam or Agnes Varda festival running in a commercial cinema any week of the year. Walking back from the Pathé a small cinema was showing all three versions of “A Star is Born.” Such is the capital of Europe’s leading cinema nation. But if it’s the ultimate multiplex experience you are after, with more formats than you could ever hope for, the Pathé Beaugrenelle should be your destination in Paris.
Celluloid Junkie selects the CJ Cinema of the Month based on our own independent survey. We always pay for our own tickets, pulled pork burger, popcorn and Coke, and visit the cinema in a ‘mystery patron’ capacity in most cases. Whenever possible we take our own photographs of a cinema in lieu of corporate stock photos. Thus, sometimes you get authenticity at the expense of focus. Our impressions may be subjective, but we always try to be fair and factually accurate in everything being presented about one of the cinemas we have chosen. For this month’s selection, Patrick von Sychowski was visiting Paris as part of a tour arranged by Cineplex (DE), so thanks to Kim & Co. He did pay for his own ticket and popcorn when he went to see the film.