Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Paris

In the age of the multiplex, there is something comforting about going to see a movie at a single screen theatre. They are becoming more rare with auditoriums being chopped into sections or having their balconies walled off for that precious extra screen. That's if the theatre is lucky--the unfortunate theatres are just razed or turned into a restaurant. Survival is a never ending struggle for the single screen theatre in the 21st century.

My favorite theatre in New York, the Paris, is just the sort of old school, single screen throwback that makes me think of long-gone eras whenever I step into its lobby and head down into the spacious room built into the ground. Other theatres in NY have more interesting programming but the act of watching a film doesn't get any better than this jewel located on a picturesque square underneath the Plaza Hotel and near a corner of Central Park. Go in the spring or the fall and your heart will skip a beat.

Everything about the Paris charms me. The lobby is tiny so you have to queue up on the street despite whatever the weather might be in New York. If it is raining or snowing--too bad, line up on the street and wait until the movie starts. This is how it should be for every theatre in a city. The theatre is draped in velvet, the 586 seats are soft and comfy and the view from the front/middle of the balcony is absolutely perfect. If I could, I'd watch every single movie in this theatre, such is my love for the place. There's something magical about walking off a busy Manhattan street and then becoming lost in the story on screen.

The Art Moderne styled Paris opened for business on September 13, 1948. Specializing in foreign and independent films--the Paris is known for French cinema. With a name like "Paris" that shouldn't be a surprise. The theatre was run by France's Pathe for 42 years before Loew's took over in 1990.

A few of my favorite experiences at the Paris: watching Amelie with a packed house during its American premiere weekend in 2001 has to be at the top of the list. French TV was on the street and interviewing people as they stood in line. Two weeks later I went and saw Amelie a second time at the Paris. That same year I saw The Widow of Saint-Pierre and then went and ate at a creperie on a cold, autumn night. How French is that?

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