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Empire - Cinerama, Paris
Kingdom of curved screen

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Francois CARRIN, France Date: 17 May 2005
Facade sign of Empire Cinerama, Paris 12 February 2005. By then the Empire had been a TV studio for decades. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

CINERAMA arrived in France in the mid of May 1955. At the 41 avenue de Wagrarn, near of Place de l'Etoile, was a theatre called EMPIRE.

During World War II it was also used as a Deutsches Soldaten Theater. Equipped as a cinema after the war, it was chosen in 1955 to play CINERAMA in France.

A trade agreement is established between Mr. Jean Bouchel-Ysaye, chairman and chief executive officer of LE THEATRE DE L'EMPIRE, & la societe Nouvelle PATHE-CINEMA and ROBIN INTERNATIONAL INC., from New-York, represented in France by Mr. Jean Petit-Lagrange.

Technical and design works are provided under supervision of famous French architect Georges PEYNET, a cinema specialist. The gala opening took place on Monday May 16th 1955 at 9.00 pm, followed Tuesday May 17th by the public opening.

French title of “This Is Cinerama” was “Place Au Cinerama”. As in other big towns, it was very successful. The film ran until January 1957; just for opening of the second French CINERAMA theatre, ABC CINERAMA in Marseilles.

The next films played in Paris were “Cinerama Holiday”, then “Seven Wonders Of The World”.

This is at this time when I discovered CINERAMA, during 1959 end of Summer vacation and last official visit in France of US president Eisenhower. My first surprise was a jasmine fragrance in the cinema hall; the second was the huge curved screen. It was more different for my mother, her main surprise was the tickets price, more twice than an usual one! with a basis of 1 US $ = 5 FRF, at the end of August 1958 EMPIRE tickets price changed from 0.7 to 1 US $ in matinees to 0.8 to 1.4 US $ in evening performances; in the same time, tickets price at the farnous LE REX changed from 0.54 (orchestra) to 0.64 US $ at the mezzanine.

I remember very well all the scenes of the film - I was 14 years old - and at the end of act I the famous [Cinerama] ad “Renault Dauphine”. Then 4th & 5th films were played until October 1960. In fact this theatre had a bad design for CINERAMA screening. It was demolished and rebuilt as a SUPER CINERAMA theatre with the new narne of EMPIRE-CINERAMA - Theatre Abel Gance, with an huge curved screen from wall to wall and ceiling to floor.

It opened on February 5th 1962, after COOPER FOUNDATION Theater in DENVER. In CINERAMA INC. annual report 1960, they claim "the entire interior of the theatre is done in one uniform color, to heighten the impact of the huge wrap-around screen". It was right! It was the same at the EMPIRE-CINERAMA with a delightful light brown color.

The theatre included a 70mm little auditorium named Studiorarna, equipped with 2 Cinemeccanica V8, and in the basement a self-service restaurant named Restaurama and a location for a store. Only the restaurant was used, never the store.

The new EMPIRE era started with “Windjammer” – (“La Grande Rencontre” in French) – with a special French editing: after a short and very impressive musical overture, titles were screened in golden letters with a blue background on the curtain! It was very legible. At the end of act I was played “How Tre West Was Won” trailer.
Further in 70mm reading:

70mm Cinema and Film in France

HTWWW's "World Preview" at the Empire Cinerama Theatre in Paris

70mm report from France

Francois Carrin

Facade of Empire Cinerama, Paris front 12 February 2005. By then the Empire had been a TV studio for decades. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

“Windjammer” French narrator was French-American actor Charles BOYER. After the premiere of “How The West Was Won” in October 1962, public performances started on November 27th 1962, very successful until September 16th 1963: 3 performances a day, some performances Sunday morning and at Xmas & New Year eves.

The next film, “Brothers Grimm”, released with the French and ridiculous title of “Les Amours Enchantees” (“The Enchanted Loves”) - was unsuccessful. So EMPIRE-CIENRAMA was closed again some days to install 70mm system with two Philips DP70.

“It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” started on December 17th 1963, more successful. During following years, EMPIRE-CINERAMA enjoyed varing fortunes, successful with “My Fair Lady”, unsuccessful with “Mille” (in 35mm CS perforations - 4 mag. tracks) for example. Until the ridiculous adventure of Jacques Tati's “PlayTime”.

Jacques Tati had a friend, Rene Silvera, producer of “PlayTime” and involved in CINERAMA France. So they decide to show “PlayTime” at EMPIRE-CINERAMA as an exclusive engagement: the only theatre in Paris! And Tati, a bit of an eccentric, claimed: the screen is too curved; this is not a spanish corrida! So EMPIRE technical staff installed a curvedless screen, in fact with a very light curve. The film received amid success, from December 17th 1967 to July 16th 1968.

The screen will stay like that until May 22th 1971 for the last reissue of “How The West Was Won”, screen curved again and successful performances. Then “Brothers Grimm” was reissued with the title of “Le Monde Merveilleux Des Contes De Grimm” – (“The Wonderful World Of Tales Of Grimm”) - at last! And after a short screening of “This Is Cinerama”, the theatre closed definitively on August 1st 1972.

Abandoned during some years, EMPIRE was transformed as a TV studio for popular shows and opened in 1975. Since some years it is abandoned again and according some sources to be demolished and rebuilt as hotel and offices. The rest is history.

To be continued with other French CINERAMA theatres.

Films played at the EMPIRE-CINERAMA from 1955 to 1972

Cinerama, Empire, Paris in 28.07.1955. Image by Allan Hailstone

17.05.1955/17.01.1957 This Is Cinerama
18.01.1957/09.03.1958 Cinerama Holiday
12.03.1958/02.11.1959 Seven Wonders of the World (1)
07.11.1959/17.05.1960 South Seas Adventure
18.05.1960/01.11.1960 Search for Paradise

02.11.1960/04.02.1962 Closed for reconstruction

05.02.1962/26.11.1962 Windjammer (2)
27.11.1962/16.09.1963 How the West Was Won
17.09.1963/??.12.1963 The Enchanted Loves (3)

Closed some days for 70mm installation

The DP70s. Image by Francois Carrin

17.12.1963/29.04.1964 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
30.04.1964/14.10.1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire
15.10.1964/21.12.1964 Flying Clipper
22.12.1964/27.10.1965 My Fair Lady
28.10.1965/21.12.1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told
22.12.1965/16.02.1966 The Hallelujah Trail(4)
17.02.1966/03.05.1966 The Great Race(4) (*)
04.05.1966/15.09.1966 BattIe of the Bulge (4)
16.09.1966/03.11.1966 Khartoum
04.11.1966/02.02.1967 The Bible…in the Beginning
03.02.1967/10.03.1967 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
11.03.1967/27.06.1967 Grand Prix
28.06.1967/21.09.1967 West Side Story
22.09.1967/??.12.1967 Millie (5)

Closed some days due to less curved screen installation according Jacques Tati's request

A model of the Empire.

17.12.1967/16.07.1968 Playtime
17.07.1967/22.08.1968 Grand Prix
23.08.1967/26.09.1968 Around the World in 80 Days
27.09.1968/19.12.1968 2001: a Space Odyssey
20.12.1968/30.01.1969 The Shoes of the Fisherman (*)
31.01.1969/13.03.1969 Krakatoa East of Java
14.03.1969/08.04.1969 Guns for San Sebastian (6) (*)
09.04.1969/24.06.1969 Gone with the Wind (*)
25.06.1969/10.07.1969 Doctor Zhivago (*)
11.07.1969/12.08.1969 2001: a Space Odyssey
13.08.1969/03.09.1969 55 Days at Peking
04.09.1969/07.10.1969 Ice Station Zebra
08.10.1969/18.12.1969 Ben Hur
19.12.1969/19.03.1970 Hello Dolly
20.03.1970/16.04.1970 Goodbye, Mr. Chips (*)
17.04.1970/05.05.1970 Alfred the Great (*)
06.05.1970/28.05.1970 BattIe of the Bulge
29.05.1970/10.06.1970 Liberation
11.06.1970/30.06.1970 5 + l (The Rolling Stones) (7)
01.07.1970/14.07.1970 Julius Caesar (*)
15.07.1970/28.07.1970 Where Eagles Dare (*)
29.07.1970/18.08.1970 The Hallelujah Trail
19.08.1970/24.09.1970 Around the World in 80 Days
25.09.1970/13.10.1970 Journey to the Center of the Earth (7)
14.10.1970/19.11.1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! (*)
20.11.1970/26.11.1970 Texas (7) -Italian western film
27.11.1970/22.12/1970 Circus World
23.12.1970/12.01.1971 Michael Strogoff (*)
13.01/1971/02.02.1971 Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
03.02.1971/04.03/1971 Cleopatra
05.03.1971/18.03.1971 The Lost World (7)
19.03.1971/15.04/1971 The Last valley
16.04.1971/??.05.1971 Elvis Show (*)

Closed some days for re-installation of Cinerama & curved screen

A model of the Empire

22.05.1971/21.03.1972 How The West Was Won (8)
22.03.1972/08.06.1972 The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
09.06.1972/01.08.1972 This Is Cinerama (9)

(1) with The Dauphine Renault at the end of Act I
(2) with HTWWW trailer at the end of Act I
(3) first ridiculous French title for “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”
(4) with Shellarama
(5) 35mm/Fox holes -1:1.85- 4 magnetic tracks
(6) with Sky Over Holland
(7) 35mm - Cinemascope - 4 magnetic tracks
(8) with “Brothers Grimm” trailer before Act II
(9) 35mm B. & W. prolog lost and replaced by a recorded message

(*) blowups - 35 mm neg.
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Updated 07-01-23