57 Bis Rue de Babylone,
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Certainly one of the original monuments to see in Paris, La Pagode was erected in 1896 to the designs of architect Alexandre Marcel. It was built by the manager of the department store Bon March for his wife on the land next to their house, a real pagoda in a lavish Japanese style used as a ballroom. But they quickly divorced and the pagoda was hired for events.
It turned to a 400 seat movie house in 1930. A projection booth was built at the rear side and beautiful glass windows were darkened by simple wood panels and additional building constructed on a part of the garden was used as the lobby.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, La Pagode was a simple district movie house showing second run movies. Every Thursday, I remember the children’s matinee with Laurel and Hardy movies and cartoons.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, it was turned to an art movie theatre but this lovely design inside and outside is very old fashioned with a dusty smell.
But what future for this theatre at the beginnig of the multiplex and lost in a very quiet district? The answer came from an independent French producer who built a new screen underground (180 seats). The wall of the garden was destroyed in order to see the building and the garden from the street, and a new modern lobby was erected.
With a clever first run art movie programming and a brillant restoration of the main auditorium, which now seats 212, the result was a huge success.
In the 1990’s the difficulty to run two screens was a major problem. Gaumont decided to quit and a new owner of the building intended to open a restaurant, but the Ministry of Culture decided to upgrade the Landmark status of the building together with its garden, with the obligation for it to remain a cinema.
After two years dark again La Pagode reopened, the towers of the roof covered with plastic sheets to avoid leaks and scaffolding in the main auditorium to hold the ceiling. Major works of renovation are needed but the future is more secure and I hope this renovation will be possible. This is one of the more interesting movie theatres in Paris.
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