News from Paris

February 18, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower (2/28)

The Slang of the Suburbs (2/25)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame (2/21)

American Squabbles (2/19)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas

Are the cinemas condemned to leave the Champs-Elysées? The extraordinary rents associated with the avenue seem to have become inaffordable for the relatively small theaters, already hampered by the development of multiplexes. After the UGC Biarritz in 1996 and the Gaumont Champs-Elysées in 1999, it is now the UGC Champs-Elysées who has permanently lowered its shutters a few weeks ago. This newest closing has been a blow to the morale of the most beautiful avenue in the world.

The Champs-Elysées are victims of their own success. Since the vast rennovation campaign of this business quarter in 1992, the largest companies reinvested in the site. Today, all the big chains desire a presence on the avenue. Zara, Gap, Séphora, Benetton, and Fnac have all opened stores in this district.

Yet this rennovation that everyone celebrated yesterday has started to become worrisome today. The rush to find a space in this area has in some cases started ferocious battles between the large chains and has inflated rent prices to a level difficult for some to follow. Today, when leases are up for renewal, the property owners do not hesitate to significantly raise the rent. After the closing of the UGC Champs-Elysées, it is the UGC Triomphe that is now in the most danger.

The cinemas are not the only ones in this boat. The Lido showplace is in danger of seeing its rent multuiplied by... three. "We deplore this type of thing, but we cannot fight free enterprise," sighs Dominique Rodet, the general representative of the Champs-Elysées committee. "There is no real danger yet," she continued, "but we must not let cultural activities disappear from the Champs. We do not want to become like avenue Montaigne, with no life."

On the side of UGC, all is not yet lost. A counter-attack is even in preparation. So as not to lose its place on the most beautiful avenue, the company is in the process of thinking of a way to rejuvinate its theaters. "We are going to find a new concept to offer more luxury, comfort, and services to the spectators," declared Alain Vangennep, director of the UGC chain. "If we don't want the public to turn towards other quarters, we must keep an eye on maintaining our theaters," recognizes his competitor Pathé. But one must still have the necessary funds. And when the cost of the space is already raised, the margin of manuverability is quickly reduced. "In addition, there are constraints with the facades in that they must respect certain criteria... it doesn't make things any easier," explains Pathé. For both cinema moguls, maintaining cinematographic activity on the avenue Champs-Elysées will necessarily depend on support from public authorities.

A little ray of sun on this gray horizon, the company Publicis has decided to keep its two-screen theater. They are even going to perform some major work along the lines of rennovating the lobby.

Original article written by Marie-Anne Gairaud

Translated by David Sadegh