Saturday, January 31, 2015

Going to the Movies in Paris

This week, Into the Woods premiered in Paris, or as it is called in French, Promenons-nous dans le bois. Watching my favorite musical on the big screen in my favorite city?! Sign me up! And when I saw that the film recruited the producer of Wicked (another favorite) along with the director of Chicago, all backed by Disney magic, I was beside myself with apprehension! (Chris Pine, you ask? Oh well, my #1 celeb crush in a princely getup may have had a little to do with my excitement...)

Imagine my hysteria, then, when I am stalking--er--checking the week of the supposed release, and there is one, ONE showtime at a handful of theaters, during work hours. Noooo! It couldn't be! Chris Pine needs me! I mean... The musical, needs me...I have been waiting to see this film for the past year, and now it was only showing for one night in Paris?!

That's when I got to learn a little lesson about the French cinema. So here are some dandy tips to keep in mind next time you panic because your dream movie is nowhere to be found:

1. Showtimes. New movies premiere on Wednesdays. This means there is usually just one avant-premiere (preview showing) on Tuesday night. But the rest of the film showtimes will appear Wednesday morning of the release date. So don't panic. The film does exist. You will see it. Just breathe.

2. Buying a ticket. You will either need cash or a card with a chip in it. If you use the automatic machines, it's card with a chip only. My chip and signature card work just fine, although some people will tell you it only works on chip and PIN cards. You can also reserve online. If you have no idea what a card with a chip is, update yo-self. It's coming to America.

3. When to go. Everyone goes to the movies on Sundays. Well, maybe not everyone, but since most businesses still close on Sunday, this is a go-to afternoon option. Matinee showings are considered before noon, so you can get discount prices for going to a morning movie. Ah, the lux life.

4. Prices. Depends on which theater group you go with. Most adult tickets will run 9-11€. Students can get a small discount by showing their student card, bringing it down to 7-9€. And the kiddos run about the same if not a few euros less than the student price. Same for seniors over 60 in some theaters. You can also buy monthly passes, which end up running about 25-35€ per month, unlimited films, if you are a real cinema fan.

5. Where to go. Talking about once you get in the big cinema itself, where is your movie playing? There usually won't be any signs with the current movie showing overhead of the individual theater doors. If you don't understand the French host who will rapid-fire direct you to which theater you're looking for, look at your ticket. There is a big number printed at the top that will match the screening room where your movie is playing.

6. Concessions. You can totally "sneak" or just openly bring food and drink into most theaters (no booze, though.) The concessions are about the same as American theaters in terms of kinds of food and extortionate pricing. Note: the regular popcorn here is sweet, so you have to ask for salt or butter. And remember, you're in France, with French proportions, so adjust your expectations.

7. Subtitles. Beside the name of each movie, you'll find either a "VO" or "VF." The first stands for version originale, which means the movie will be playing as shot in its original language (great news for us Americans!). There are almost always subtitles in French (VOSF), and this can be a very helpful and amusing method of learning French and seeing how different the translation is. And sometimes it just doesn't translate... (For example, there is no way the French translation of Into the Woods can capture the wit and rhyme and rhythm specific to Stephen Sondheim, since he masterfully manipulates the English language to create such mesmerizing lyrics. Goosebumps still every time.) The latter abbreviation means the entire movie will be dubbed over in French, so choose mindfully.

8. Online. The best website by far is It has all the information on films in France, from reviews to previews, séances (cinema locations) to showtimes. You can reserve tickets online, see what movies are coming up next, and read up on your favorite screen stars. (Just no drooling on your keyboard when you see CP in his frilly silk shirt and tights...)

Do you have any more tips for seeing movies in Paris?? Please help grow everyone's French experience and share in the comments below! And while you're at it, book your tickets to see Into the Woods. You'll wish you did...

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