Paris and cinema: Why the French capital is the city of the silver screen

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 13 Jan, 2023 Updated Fri 13 Jan 2023 11:57 CEST
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A picture taken on January 27, 2011 in Paris shows the facade of the Cinema du Pantheon movie theatre. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Our friends at Lost in Frenchlation, who help bring French cinema to non-French speakers in Paris, explain why Paris shouldn't just be known as the city of light and love, but also the city of cinema.


You might recognise Paris as being the hub of light, love, fashion, and art, but have you ever stopped to think about how deeply-rooted the concept of cinema is in Parisian culture?

Paris has established itself as a city whose cinema is deeply embedded in its culture.


Home to the world’s first-ever movie screening in 1895, Paris has since continued to thrive as the global face of cinema with 398 screens across 75 venues — up eight percent on 2000 — and down just slightly from 411 in 2019, according to AFP. They showcase not only French independent and mainstream productions, but also the best cinema works from across the globe. 

By most English-speaking film buff standards, a lot of French cinema might be considered arthouse.

This is because France doesn't just produce films to profit from the box office as many other film markets do.

The French use the phrase cinéma d’art et essai to describe films that have ambition, but whose artistic and expressive purpose outweighs profitability.

Paris caters for these special films with its strong cinema culture and the sheer amount of independent cinemas which serve as the perfect venues for screenings.

Some 39 independent cinemas were operating in Paris in 2021, according to Art et Essai, and for the most part they screen both mainstream and independent films alongside each other.

Other countries tend to separate arthouse films from blockbusters by showing them at different cinemas, but independent Parisian cinemas are bridging the gap and giving cinema-goers the unique opportunity to view the full spectrum of what's on offer.

This highlights Paris' open attitude towards films and the Parisian population's appreciation for all forms of the big screen.

A 2019 Vulture article found that on average, French residents overall went to the cinema three times in 2018 – more than in any other European country, and two-thirds of the French population went to the movies at least once.

But in 2018, the National Center for Cinema (CNC) ranked the Paris region "the leading French département for cinema," because it hosts the largest number of movie theatres in France.


Paris' town hall reported in 2022 that each arrondissement in the city had at least one cinema, and that the 5th and 6th arrondissements alone offer a total of 27 movie theatres (or 70 screens).

While France is undoubtedly one of the world's movie capitals, this statistic shows Paris' heightened appreciation for the art and entertainment of cinema. 

Multiple widely-attended film events happen in Paris annually that spotlight local productions.

Among these events include the Paris Art and Movie Awards, the Paris Independent Film Festival, and the European Independent Film Festival.

These occasions are important because they bring awareness to the cinema being produced in France and Paris in particular, highlighting domestic accomplishments and drawing a wider audience to the cinema.

Finally, although Paris prides itself on creating and exporting French cinema, the city is also welcoming of films from other cultures.

The City of Paris relies on integrating foreign films into screening selections as more tourists and foreign residents make their way into the city.

This is important because film serves as a means of weakening cultural barriers; when someone is able to experience the enchantment of global cinema, they are able to easily understand foreign cultures in a way that was not open to them before. 

Parisians view cinema as uniting a community while also allowing people to have their own experience, taking in films on their own terms.

This approach to cinema is similar to the typical Parisian personality - open to coming together, but remaining an independent individual in expression.

Ultimately, what makes Paris the capital of cinema is the Parisian appreciation of and curiosity for films; the world-class cinema infrastructure that exists within Paris; and the city's exceptional ability to keep its cinema culture thriving by encouraging and rewarding domestic production. 

Lost in Frenchlation provides the Anglophone community of France the chance to enjoy the best of French cinema with English subtitles in a friendly and international environment. 



The Local 2023/01/13 11:57

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