60 Avenue de la Motte Piquet,
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At the beginning of the struggle between movie theatres and television around the 1960’s many new process’s with wide screen are launched.
The Russian process equivalent of Cinerama is demonstrated at the Brussels World’s Fair and a French producer decided to open a Kinopanorama theatre in Paris.
The first choice to build the Kinopanorama was the Marigny, a former circus, but fortunately an old silent era movie palace, the Splendid, was chosen to be the shell of the new theatre. The facade and the lobby are torn down in order to built an apartment building with a new lobby but the balcony remained and the stalls are excavated because a new projection booth with six projectors needed to be built under the balcony. The auditorium had a gilded plaster ceiling and a yellow curtain and green colours for the seats and the walls.
Opening in 1960 with “I Walk In Moscow”, it ran for two years. With 70mm prints instead of three projectors the policy of Russian movies was very successful until the end of the 1960’s.
In 1968 Cinerama already had two theatres, the Gaumont Palace (6,000 seats), and the Empire (1,000 seats) but needed another screen on the left bank. The Kino became Cinerama Rive Gauche for a while with 70mm prints.
After the 1970’s the theatre, renamed the Kinopanorama, had a neighbourhood theatre policy with second run movies. The UGC chain took control but it ended up being a disaster (600 patrons a week).
After a threat of closing to become a church, the former owner took control again and a 70mm print policy brought new kinds of patrons with “That’s Entertainment”, “Hello Dolly”, “Lawrence orf Arabia”, “Ben Hur”, “The Sound of Music”, etc.
Around 1978, the producer of “The Rose” asked for a screening at the Kino and was so impressed that the theatre was added for the first run and a first run policy started again after good results. Among the hits were “Le Tambourg” and “ET”. The first week, the Avenue was crowded with twice the capacity of the theatre at each performance and started a traffic jam.
Technically many improvements were added such as special lenses, digital sound and in the auditorium, a new white curtain with screen taps to partially hide the wide curved screen (made in the UK) with standard 35mm prints and very comfortable armchair seats, reducing the capacity slightly, but a must for movie lovers. The view from the rear side of the stalls gave the impression of entering through a huge curtain.
For the first run of “A Passage to India”, a digital theatre organ clone of the Wurlitzer console entertained prior to each performance. One morning people from the English Cinema Theatre Association were visiting the theatre and among them, someone played the theatre organ for a magic moment.
In 1992, Gaumont took control of the Kinopanorama and the first mistake was to rename it Grand Ecran but quickly they returned to Kinopanorama. Later in 1992, a major refurbishing gave the theatre a nice look, but the reduction of the size of the screen, the loss of the curtain and a first run policy not suited to the Kino decreased the number of patrons.
My last visit was a revival of “Ben Hur” with a 35mm print around 2000 but poor sound and a poor picture far from the glory years showed that the theatre had lost its prestige.
During the summer of 2002, the Kino closed and and has sat unused since. It is a major loss for the movie theatre life of Paris.
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