The great thing about cinema in Paris? Loads of movies in English. All the recent big hits, including things you can’t see in America yet—at least for a few more days—like Captain America: Civil War (go see it when it comes out in the States; it’s not Citizen Kane, but it’s fun).
We even saw the recent Star Wars before it opened in the U.S. I was on my way to the market in the afternoon on opening day, noticed that the theater around the corner from our apartment was showing The Force Awakens in English, jumped in line behind just one person, snapped up some tickets, went shopping, got home, and told the kids to bang out their homework ’cause we had plans!
And that’s not all. A few months ago I took in Blade Runner—a pristine digital showing in a packed theater—and before that, Soylent Green (it was a bad print, probably from the original showing in 1973, full of scratches, skips, and moments when the sound dropped out, but hey, it was Chuck Heston on the big screen, and I’d never seen it before).
Plenty of revivals are on tap every week in Paris. Years ago I saw Vertigo on one of my visits. This week you can see An Affair to Remember, Chinatown, Forrest Gump, Full Metal Jacket, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Exorcist, and a few dozen more, including Purple Rain. At last count, in addition to the current crop of Hollywood fare, 46 different movies in English made before 2015 were showing in Paris!
Surprisingly, in this expensive city, cinema is generally a good value. Adult tickets are about the same price as back home, and they offer both student and children’s discounts, so we end up doing better than in Seattle. We’ve even been able to use discount promotions on major blockbusters during opening week; seems like in the States, passes or discounts are never valid for any movie you actually want to see.
The bummer of cinema in Paris? Keeping track of the fine print. Really, the problem isn’t so much cinema itself, as being another instance of where my language limitations get in the way. We’ve pretty much got the crucial thing down: making sure the movie is being shown in version originale (VO)—that is, English. If it’s dubbed (VF), we’re in trouble. Sometimes they’re listed as VOST or VOSTF, both of which mean English with French subtitles. Okay, got it. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.
The day before the new Captain America opened, I checked my go-to movie site for movies in English and noticed that one of the theaters in town had both the first and second Captain America films. Score! We’d missed the showing of the first one, but could make it to the second (which is the only one I really wanted to see again anyway). I double-checked the cinema’s actual website and confirmed the time. So far, so good. I tried to see if online tickets were available, but it didn’t seem to want to work. Hmm. Well, we decided to have a big snack—since the showtime would make for a late dinner—and headed out to find the theater, hoping for seats. We got there with minutes to spare. The line wasn’t too long, but when we got to the counter, there seemed to be a problem. The man would only sell me tickets good for the next three movies that night—the original Captain America movies were being shown with the two Avengers movies and the new Captain America film as a package deal: a five movie, all-day marathon. He wouldn’t charge us for the one’s we’d missed, but we’d have to pay for Winter Soldier, Avengers 2 and the new movie or not go at all. I tried to reiterate that we only wanted to buy tickets for Winter Soldier. Nope. No-can-do. Now, I like a movie marathon as much as the next guy, but movies till three in the morning just wasn’t in the cards for us. We’d arrived that day from Prague, Evelyn was jet-lagged from a class trip, and we would have one more day in Paris before heading down to Nice on an early train for the balance of spring break. (Yes, spring break is two weeks long in France. And it bears repeating: the schedule of vacances scolaires easily trumps anything in the States). Well, bummer. So we consoled ourselves with dinner at a nearby Breakfast in America.
The next day, Merideth and I went for a walk to the big megaplex near our apartment to get tickets for the opening day showing of the newest Captain America. No marathon for us, but we were going to see the new one if we could! They were charging a premium price because it’s in 3D (just like they do in the States), but we didn’t care. At least they weren’t sold out, the showing was at a convenient time, and they still had good seats available (at this theater you get to choose your seats ahead of time). I was about ready to pay when the man behind the counter offered me a punch card good for five 3D movies at the theater—it would save us fifteen euros and still be good for one more movie. Did I want to do that? Absolutely!
So, when you’re in Paris, if you’re suffering from museum fog, had your fill of Very Important Sights, and sick of crêpes and croissants, why not go to a movie? If you’re afraid of squandering your precious time and missing out on culture, you can order a bottle of champagne to go with your popcorn. Problem solved.