Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Original Version

If you want to see a film in Reims you have three options. You could jump in your car and drive to fifteen minutes to one of the commercial parks and the huge Gaumont multiplex, where every film is shown in French or dubbed into French; you could stroll down the Place d'Erlon and pay to enter the smaller Gaumont, where every film is shown in French or dubbed into French; or you could stop at the top of the Place d'Erlon and hand over €7 to see a film shown in its original language, be it French, English, Italian... with French subtitles.
The Cinéma Odéon is Reim's Cinéma Art & Essai, or what I would call an arthouse cinema. They'll show American blockbusters and French arthouse alongside more exotic programming and series of foreign films. The common thread is that are all shown in version originale (vo). In the last month, Frog and I have seen Flags of Our Fathers, Black Dahlia and Scoop. Nevermind that the last two were very average films, it's our cinema. I'm happy to see a French French film, but don't ask me to watch a film dubbed in French (version français - vf). It's disconcerting to see an old familiar face open their mouth and another person's voice appear.
Our concern is this - the owner of the Opéra cinema (built by architects Thion and Rousseau in 1923) is reported as being open to offers on the lease which runs out next year. He says that its 130,000 visitors per year makes it unprofitable and that the space is not workable. In addition to the smaller salles, there is one huge screening salle (sith a beautiful ceiling) which is either freezing in the winter (we are now used to watching films with our coat and gloves still on) or baking in the summer and there is no central space for exhibitions and a café. The owner has had enough.
The city of Reims has replied by saying that Reims will not lose its Cinéma Art & Essai but that another more suitable, central building needs to be found. There are mutterings that the disused and decaying covered market (built 1927-1928) might be an option. My fear is that even once a decision is made (and decisions are never made quickly) the speed of works here are so snail like, we will be cinema-less for a long time and the Opéra will be turned into another soulless shopping mall inhabited by tatty shoe shops.

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