If you’re in Paris this summer, join the locals for an evening of free open-air cinema, a popular way to beat the heat on a budget (especially for those without air conditioning). The Cinéma en Plein Air at the Parc de la Villette is the most popular, but there are also a few others you might want to check out.
Cinéma en Plein Air at the Parc de la Villette
The Parc de la Villette in northeast Paris (19th arrondissement, M° Porte de Pantin) hosts open-air films every Wednesday-Saturday night on their vast lawn known as Le Prairie du Triangle from mid-July through mid-August. The films — often from around the world, but mostly in English or French) are in VO (original version) with subtitles in French (except for kids’ films: this year’s Aristocats screening will be dubbed in French), with the sound is broadcast on loudspeakers. The films are usually classics (or cult classics) and blockbusters that you may have already seen, which is actually good, because there can be quite a bit of noise and movement around you as people are picnicking with their friends, making it hard to concentrate on the film alone. Think of it as more of a social event than a serious film screening, and you won’t be disappointed!
The lawn opens from 7am, so there’s no point in getting there earlier than that. But make sure you don’t wait until the last minute, either, because you’ll need to go through security and find a good spot before it fills up! Lounge chairs can be rented (first come, first served) for €7/each or five for €20. You can also bring your own blanket and cushions, but try to position yourself behind other people without chairs or you won’t see anything.
One of the best parts about these screenings is that you can usually come with a big group of friends (or your family) without worrying about space…as long as you don’t wait until the last minute on a night when there’s a big film showing. You’re allowed — and encouraged — to bring a picnic, but they’re very strict about the rules: no glass containers of any kind, no aluminum cans, no corkscrews, knives, or sharp cutlery (wood or plastic cutlery is okay, and this is a great time to test wine in a box!) Dogs, skateboards, trottinettes, suitcases and bikes are also not allowed (there is a free bike parking area next door that’s guarded during the films). You can also buy drinks from the bar, as well as popcorn, cheese naans and oysters (vive la France), but convenience comes at a price (check out the menu here).
This year’s theme for summer 2022 is “Alors on danse” (Let’s Dance”). Films start at sunset, which is anywhere from 9:3opm to 10:30pm (later in July, earlier in August), so be aware of the fact that the film might end after the last metro (you’ll notice a huge exodus just before, even if the movie is still going), so have a Plan B for getting home (bike, taxi, walk, night bus, etc). If the weather looks iffy, check the Parc de la Villette Facebook page to see if the screening is still scheduled or canceled.
Here’s the full schedule for summer 2022:
Start Time 10:30pm
- Wednesday, July 20 – FLASHDANCE – Adrian Lyne -1983 -1h35
- Thursday, July 21 – PLAY– Ballet by Alexander Ekman -2017 -1h45
- Friday, July 22 – PULP FICTION – Quentin Tarantino -1994 -2h36 (12 years old and up)
- Saturday, July 23rd – THE ARISTOCATS – Wolfgang Reitherman -1971 -1h19 (Dubbed in French)
- Sunday, July 24 – LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT -Jacques Demy -1967 -2h08
Start Time 10:15pm
- Wednesday, July 27 – COLD WAR – Pawel Pawlikowski-2018 -1h29
- Thursday, July 28 – NAISSANCE DES PIEUVRES – Céline Sciamma -2007 -1h25
- Friday, July 29 – BILLY ELLIOTT – Stephen Daldry -2000 -1h52
- Saturday, July 30 – SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER – John Badham -1978 -1h53
- Sunday, July 31 – LES CHAUSSONS ROUGES– Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger -1949 -2h13
Start Time 10pm
- Wednesday, August 3 – MAIN DANS LA MAIN – Valérie Donzelli -2012 -1h24
- Thursday, August 4 – LE GRAND BAL – Laetitia Carton -2018 -1h29
- Friday, August 5 – BLACK SWAN – Darren Aronofsky -2011 -1h48
- Saturday, August 6 – THE ARTIST – Michel Hazanavicius -2011 -1h40
- Sunday, August 7 – BONJOUR TRISTESSE– Otto Preminger -1958 -1h34
Start Time 9:45pm
- Wednesday, August 10 – SI C’ETAIT DE L’AMOUR – Patric Chiha -2020 -1h22
- Thursday, August 11 – EDEN – Mia Hansen-Løve-2014 -2h11
- Friday, August 12 – DANCER IN THE DARK – Lars Von Trier -2000 -2h21
- Saturday, August 13 – EYES WIDE SHUT – Stanley Kubrick -1999 -2h40
- Sunday, August 14 – LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL – Frank Capra -1948-2h09
Start Time 9:30pm
- Wednesday, August 17 – GRISGRIS– Mahamat- Saleh Haroun -2013 -1h40
- Thursday, August 18 – GIRL – Lukas Dhont -2018 -1h46
- Friday, August 19 – LES BIEN-AIMÉS – Christophe Honoré -2011 -2h19
- Saturday, August 20 – HIGH HEELS – Pedro Almodovar -1992 -1h55
- Sunday, August 21 – WEST SIDE STORY – Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins-1962 -2h33
Other Open-Air Cinema Venues in Paris
If you’re well-organized and don’t have too many people in your entourage, you might want to check out some of the other options available in Pais this summer.
The Rooftop at Hotel Paradiso
The Cinema-Hotel Paradiso (135 blvd Diderot, 12th, M° Nation), which is part of the MK2 Cinema next door, screens free open-air films on its rooftop bar every Sunday night from 9:30pm from June 12 until September 18th. Much like the Parc de la Villette, they show a selection of international films, essentially cult classics that will appeal to the Parisian hipsters (note that quite a few are for adults only).
There are no reservations, but there are only 30 spots (a grassy raised area and a wooden deck area, both with folding chairs) so you’ll need to get there quite early to grab a spot…6pm would not be a bad idea if you really want to get in. The rooftop bar opens Sundays from 2pm, with a small menu of drinks and snacks (Bob’s Café is downstairs on the ground floor of the hotel). Note that if it’s sunny, there are no parasols or shade unless the sun happens to hot the little potted trees at the right angle, so you’ll want to bring a large hat…or maybe an umbrella.
Cinéma sur le Toit de la Machine du Moulin Rouge x Bar à Bulles
The Bar à Bulles is the rooftop bar of the nightclub attached to the famous cabaret, La Machine de la Moulin Rouge (90 blvd de Clichy, bar entrance at 4 Cité Veron, 18th, M° Blanche) with a view from the other side of the red windmill) hosts free film screenings every Wednesday night from June 29th through September 7th.
There are three things that distinguish this open-air cinema from the others:
- you can reserve your spot in advance (and be put on the waitlist if you don’t get a seat)
- there are headphones for the sound so you can actually hear the film
- they make a point of choosing 50% male directors and 50% female directors
To reserve one of the spots, you need to be ready: each film is open to reservations on the Thursday before the next screening…And they go fast! You reserve through an app called Dice (and if you can’t make it, they ask that you cancel your reservation so someone on the waitlist can get there in time to see the film). You can find it on their website here.
The rooftop opens at 8:30pm for those with reservations, and they ask that you arrive no later than 45 minutes before the screening starts to make sure your spot is saved. Here is the schedule (click for the link to the FB events page):
Branche & Ciné