50 Boulevard Voltaire,
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Located in the north of the city centre. In 1864 a 1,500 seat café-concert hall was built by architect Charles Duval, named Ba-ta-clan after a famous theatre musical play. The design was Japanese inside, with seating in orchestra and two balcony levels. The exterior facade looked like a pagoda. Films were shown in the theatre in the late-1890’s and early-1900’s.
In 1930 the financial situation of the theatre became terrible and the Ba-ta-clan was converted to movies in 1932, but still included musical acts with some shows. Seating was provided for 1,150. A fire in 1933 destroyed the second balcony.
By 1950, the building was in a bad shape, crumbling and some statuary and other decoration was robbed. The wooden building became so unstable that the police gave the order to close the theatre. A massive renovation that year installed a new steel framework replacing the original wooden one. A projection booth was built at the first level of a new auditorium in very 1950’s style with plaster frescoes on the walls and 900 seats on a single ground floor. The facade was altered and the roof of the pagoda lost its exotic look. Nothing was left inside from the Japanese decoration, but as a second run theatre it was again a very nice neighbourhood movie theatre. By the late-1960’s its location proved to be out of the way and its management had great difficulty finding a programme policy that worked. It closed as a cinema in 1969.
It was reopened by an ex-dancer and former artistic manager of live shows who decided to convert it into a cabaret, with dancing, dinner and a floor show. But this was a flop and the theatre closed again and sat dark for six years. A new owner in 1975 converted the place to a live concert hall and ballroom, the new formula being very successful. Groups such as Genesis appeared here. Sometimes it was also used for live theatre.
The theatre was renovated in 1986 with money from the Ministry of Culture, keeping the frescoes. The balcony, long hidden under a plaster ceiling, was reopened to gave a bigger capacity. The seats of the orchestra stalls could be removed and the stage was rebuilt in order to perform all kinds of shows.
Now the Bataclan is a permanent live concert venue, a bar and restaurant with part of the building renovated with an exotic design. In 2006 the façade was renovated which brought back its original colour scheme.
Some of the original Japanese remains in the foyer, painted over in white, and it is only remnant of the original decor left in the building, With the help of old postcards, it is interesting to imagine how impressive the old pagada facade was.
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