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
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
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
Translated by David Sadegh