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“Louxor works like a provincial cinema”

Cinema unique in its incredible history and its Egyptian architecture, the Luxor celebrates its 100th anniversary on October 6th. Emmanuel Papillon, director of the Palais, and his team, have concocted a program for the occasion bringing together previews and high-level encounters. An event in the image of the “youngest of the old cinemas”.

What series of events has the Luxor team planned for these 100 years?

Emanuel Papillon: From October 6 to 11, the cinema offers a preview week with several films representative of our work. We start right on the anniversary day, Wednesday, October 6 [le Louxor a ouvert le 6 octobre 1921, ndlr] with The Olympiads, the latest Jacques Audiard, selected at Cannes. Because it’s about Paris, young people, and there are similarities with our neighborhood, Olympiades is more about people of Asian origin and here from North Africa. The next day, we continue with Tre Piani, a film 100% in the image of its very subtle director Nani Moretti. Still on the confirmed director’s side, the restored version of ThereseOctober 11, in the presence of Alain Cavalier.

From October 8 to 10, we are also resuming the Cannes selection ACID, with among others, Down with the King by Diego Ongaro, Grand Prix of the Deauville American Film Festival. It is an event that we propose each year to promote young and innovative cinema, all the film teams will be present. On October 13, place at Stand up women, in the presence of director François Ruffin. It’s a very good film, very strong. Finally, on October 10, we programmed a cine-concert of 3 short films for young audiences, with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy.

In parallel, an exhibition initiated by the association Les amis du Louxor, retracing the history of cinema in a very educational way, will be installed in the living room. And a photo exhibition of the spectators will be presented before the screening throughout the month of October. We asked photographer Karen Assayag, whose previous work on Moroccan youth had been exhibited at the Arab World Institute, to take these portraits. She lives in the 18th and often comes to Luxor, it was important that there be this link.

Luxor and the district, a long love story, then?

The history of Luxor does not begin on the day of the inauguration on Wednesday October 6, 1921, but in 1919, when Henri Silberberg buys this Haussmannian building at 170 boulevard de Magenta. The architect Henri Zipcy then transformed it into an Egyptian palace devoted to the cinema. In 1930, Pathé bought it, the programming remained of high quality. From the 1970s, the Luxor only screened exotic or Egyptian films with Arabic subtitles, and Bollywood musicals.

The Ouaki family, owner of Tati, buys the cinema to make a business of it, but the project fails, because the facade, classified as a historical monument, is untouchable. In the mid-1980s, Tati handed over management to nightclub operations. First a West Indian nightclub, in 1987 the Louxor became the Megatown, the biggest gay nightclub in the capital. Eventually closed due to noise pollution.

The building is gradually falling into disrepair, the facade is falling into ruin, it is almost a wart in the landscape. Under the impetus of the Action Barbes association and the inhabitants of the district who did not want their palace to be destroyed, the City of Paris bought the building in 2003. It did not really know what to do with it. As the facade was listed, she decided to follow the project of Philippe Pumain, an architect who is fighting to revive Le Louxor from 1921, that of Henri Zipcy. Inside there was nothing except the stairs. It was a titanic job and it will be necessary to wait ten years for the cinema to reopen its doors. I spoke of the youngest of the old cinemas, because there are several centenarians in France. The oldest is the Eden Théâtre in La Ciotat, first inaugurated as a theater in 1889, and which saw the first screenings of the Lumière brothers.

The Luxor

What are the specificities of Luxor?

It is an art house, neighborhood and municipal cinema. It has been operated for eight years by the CinéLouxor company, of which I am a member, with Carole Scotta at my side; producer at Haut et Court, distributor and exhibitor; and Martin Bidou, operator. Three rooms show art house films, sometimes in a “mainstream” way, such as Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. I would like the inhabitants of the neighborhood to be able to see films by authors in the broad sense near their homes.

We collaborate with numerous associations and schools in the area. This is very important for us who adhere to the “Image Education” scheme. We receive kindergarten, middle school and high school classes every week. We offer them films, they can also choose from a pre-established catalogue.

Other particularities?

Yes, a certain repertory philanthropism. We show old films, which is more the prerogative of cinemas in historic neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter. Our Sunday morning film club works very well, offering old, notable or reissued films, some very well known, others not at all.

The Luxor

Another very important aspect, receiving a lot of film crews, directors, actors, but not only, for the day of the release or during previews. It’s my way of seeing things. The public is curious, satisfied and at the rendezvous. People trust us and follow us, it’s a great satisfaction. Finally, we also host festivals, such as Mon Premier festival, aimed at young audiences, Le Panorama du Maghreb, the revival of ACID, etc.

The City of Paris launched a call for tenders, I approached Carole and Martin. I didn’t think I had the best record, but I knew the area well from having lived there. It was a challenge to reopen this place that had been closed for several years, but I was convinced that this corner of Paris lacked a cinema. Studio 28 at the Abbesses has only one room, the Pathé Wepler, including the filmmakers’ studio on Place Clichy, is quite far away, the same for the MK2 Quai de Seine and Quai de Loire.

In 1960, the district had 41 cinemas, we are now only 4

Emmanuel Papillon, Director of Luxor

Louxor is located at the crossroads of the 9th, 10th and 18th arrondissements. The 18th is a real city on its own, bringing together all socio-professional categories. Here the inhabitants are very attached to their neighborhood, including Barbès and Goutte-d’Or where the climate is sometimes complicated. What interested us in this project was the cinema and the environment, because the Louxor works like a provincial cinema. We are alone in the neighborhood and in Paris, it remains atypical.

You were cinema operators for 20 years, then a teacher at La Femis, why did you take over the management of a cinema?

It’s simple, I like it! Teaching, being in contact with young enthusiasts at La Femis, was interesting and intellectually invigorating. But I particularly like the exploitation that includes the relationship with the public, it’s a commercial profession if I may say so. I experienced confinement very badly, because, for me, a cinema is made to be open. Ironically, the year 2019 had been a year of exceptional attendance.

The exit of the Covid is in any case not so obvious as that. This summer, it was complicated because of the health pass and Parisians and tourists had deserted the capital. The figures may be progressing from week to week, we are still at minus 15% compared to 2019. We feel that people are still a little shocked. It’s not so easy to go from your sofa to the movie theater chair. It’s gonna take a little time.

Luxor facade - Cinema Palace

I remain optimistic, although vigilant, because the public continues to go to the cinema, despite video-on-demand platforms, series, television… The cultural and social link of going to the cinema is a need, it’s like for restaurant, theatre, concerts. A need to live an intense moment, together, with friends or family. This link is all the more vital and necessary as people seem to be atomized from the outside. The cinema remains a privileged moment of isolation from the world, where you don’t take out your phone. Everyone needs this, to get out of a sometimes sterile hyperactivity, where we are constantly solicited.

There is no cinema without “seeing it together”

Emmanuel Papillon, Director of Luxor

It hatched quite late. I grew up in the countryside, we rarely went to the cinema. My mother was a movie buff, but living in a rural area drastically restricted the choices. I really (re)discovered cinema in high school with pedagogical and passionate teachers. With a group of very film-loving friends, we went to Parisian cinemas, including one open 24 hours a day. We often missed the last suburban train, so we spent the night there, waiting to be able to leave. I became a little bulimic; I was discovering American cinema, Scorsese, De Palma, Coppola… I love the United States and American cinema, even if it’s not in great shape right now. TV also contributed to this with the last session, the film club, the arrival of the video recorder. By recording our VHS, we had the impression of appropriating the films.

The Luxor

Regarding the 7th art, Paris remains an incredible city. Abroad, in the big cities, there is no equivalent in terms of cinemas. In London, it takes half an hour on the tube to find a room. Parisians don’t realize it, but the capital compiles the Cinémathèque, the Forum des images, the rooms of the Latin Quarter… The program is plethoric, you can watch films from the 1930s or very recent. The media libraries have an inexhaustible fund, you can find everything there. Abroad, the offer is both much poorer and less accessible. France is in any case apart. Here, cinephilia is strong, we have dynamic film reviews, the Cannes festival, there is a French exception and that’s good!

From Wednesday October 6, 2021 to Tuesday October 12, 2021

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Posted on Wednesday September 27th, 2017

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