Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's the Old Movie House...

I hear the line from Kenny Rogers' "Twenty Years Ago" in my head every time I pass our vacant movie house on the main street, a few blocks from my house... ♪♪ You could find me there every Friday night, twenty years ago. ♪♪

Variétés Cinéma was built in the late 1930's and was initially a factory for shoe inserts and broomsticks. The building was partially destroyed when the town was heavily bombarded in June 1940. It reopened as a performance venue in 1942, and could hold up to 350 spectators, including 50 in the balcony. Among the movies to grace the screen here were James Bond's Bon Baisers de Russia (From Russia with Love) and Goldfinger and French comedian Louis de Funès' Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez. (Think: Leslie Nielsen as a bumbling French policeman.) Brigitte Bardot's Les Pétroleuses (Frenchie King in English) was described as a sex western on the theater's flyer.

The facility was also the setting for many professional and local amateur theater performances, as well as company Christmas parties, school plays, etc. Variétés Cinéma was managed for many years by a local man who'd begun as a mason under his father, but had to change jobs when he contracted tuberculosis. (However, this helped him avoid civil service while the town was under German occupation.) He began running the projectors in the 40s and became its owner in 1960.

In its heyday in the sixties, Variétés Cinéma attracted 750 to 800 spectators a week. But by 1980, that number had dwindled to 300. The company ceased operations in 1981. The town has owned the building for a few years, and supposedly it's slated for another cultural arts purpose in the future...

For now, it sits idle, advertising the monthly Cinémobile movies...

(See French Drive-In Theater from October.)

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