We Luv UGC Going to the movies in a foreign country can be both fun and amusing before you even get to sit down. Paris has its own way of doing everything, and the cinema is no exception. Similar to the States, you can stand in line, buy a ticket, get overpriced munchies, wrestle for the best seat, then sit through thirty minutes of commercials. But unlike the States, there are Men with Microphones. Mr. Hall and I have grown quite fond of the UGC Les Halles Man with Microphone, who wanders amongst the crowd waiting in line to buy tickets, saying something that we can’t understand (this is the same person who gives very important, yet severely muffled, information over the Metro intercom). Maybe he’s describing a movie, maybe telling us that the M&M’s have gone on sale, but I suspect he is telling us all how many spaces are left for each film. Which is odd, because we can all see it for ourselves on any of the screens above us. Another favorite trend at the UGC Les Halles (which is a huge cineplex like the one at Place D’Italie) is the long-running Happy Pop and Extrême Ice Cream commercials, always on one right after the other. I saw them for the first time in 1995, and they’re still going strong into the new millennium.
The Basics for First-Timers For Anglophones venturing out into Parisian movieland for the first time, there are a few things to consider. First of all, many of the movies you’ll see advertised are Anglophone films, usually a few months later than the States and the UK. Second, if you DO want to see an Anglophone film, make sure it says V.O. (version original) where you buy the tickets, or else you’ll have to try and read the dubbed-over lips. Third, Wednesday afternoon is a horrid time to go, because all of the children are out of school early. Thursday evening tends to be a big movie night for Parisians, and the weekends are pretty hairy after 8pm. Finally, if you think the prices seem a bit high, there are discounts for students with I.D., discount cards (where you buy at least five tickets at once), and of course, some cinemas have matinée and mid-week discounts.
What’s On? The best way to find out what’s on, where, and how much, see the Pariscope listings (paper edition costs 3ff at any news kiosk). Another of my favorites is Allo Ciné. See what’s on in Paris, where, news, interviews and reviews, buy videos, chat in the forums, and you can buy tickets in advance. To get the Auto-translator version in Franglais, replace the http://www.allocine.fr with http://www.allocine.fr (funny, but a bit garbled). Also, their AllocinéTV will soon be up and running, to give you little peeks into the movie world, if you’re computer has the plug-ins.
For the Fanatics Check out the Studio Galande for the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Paris! Along with a few other films, this small cinema in the Latin Quarter keeps the tradition alive late at night on the weekends. And if you’re flying between France and the States, don’t miss the Mikorama site. They list what’s playing on most international fights between US and France, as well as what’s in the cinemas, and what will be coming in the next months. Plus news and links for film festivals, distributors, film history, film organizations, and so much more. In French, but you should be able to understand enough to navigate the site easily.
While in Paris… For something uniquely Parisian, don’t miss the Forum des Images, in Les Halles, formerly called the Vidéothèque de Paris. The site is in English and French, and you can peruse their “unique and unparalleled audio-visual collection on the subject of Paris, currently comprising more than 6000 titles, covering the period from 1895 to the present day.” You can arrange a private viewing of anything in the collection, or go to see any of their regular thematic screenings.
French Films? As far as French films go, I highly recommend them if you can understand the dialogue (French films tend to be less action oriented, more philosophical). Mr. Hall and I really liked the Jean-Paul Belmondo film called “Peut-Être.” It helps to have a French friend there to tell you what’s going on if you don’t understand. I also have found it quite amusing to see Anglophone films with a French audience. If you can read the French subtitles, you’ll understand why they dislike a lot of our films (I’ve seen some bad translations). In any case, it’s interesting to see how many cultural things they don’t understand, and therefore, don’t find funny. For example, even in England I was the only one laughing during Austin Powers 2 when Fat Bastard sang the Babyback Ribs song (from the annoying Chili’s commercials in the States). Just goes to show that even if we can master the French language, we may never catch all of their pop culture references.
P.S. Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you all are watching those classic Christmas films, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Mr. Hall still calls him the Grimp–but we’ll have that all sorted by next year!). Next week’s article will be about New Year’s Preparations in Paris—La Bogue Arrive!
November 2019 Update
Not surprisingly, this article could be republished today with 99% of the information unchanged, and all of the movie houses mentioned here are still going strong, including Studio Galande’s weekly Rocky Horror Picture Show! Parisians love their cinema, even with Netflix and other cheap streaming services available, cinemas in Paris are almost always full on the weekend. I’ve subscribed to the Carte UGC Illimité for almost a decade, an unlimited movie pass that costs €21/month (most films are €11, so you only need to see two for it to be a good deal). One major change in recent years: many American films premiere in Paris a few days BEFORE they’re released in the US. Otherwise, I haven’t actually seen the Man with the Mic recently, which makes me a little sad, even though I had no idea what he was saying!
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’m publishing them all here, one by one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris”