Seeing a Movie in France

I could have been at a rock concert or a prison riot.

July 2011  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows premiers worldwide

July PARIS 2011 – I’m in Paris with a bunch of teenagers and their parents hosting a French Immersion tour.

Like all of the teens I did not want to miss out on the Final End of an Epoch Harry Potter opening night movie. We had to watch it in Paris!

Obviously none of us wanted to sit through Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows dubbed in French so we had to locate a cinema in Paris that screened it in its Original version (V.O.) as some of the cinemas had it in V.F. which is Version Francaise.

Mk2 Bibliothèque cinema, Paris

MK2 is a chain of cinemas throughout France and we chose Beaubourg (Les Halles) in Paris to queue and pre-pay for tickets earlier in the day

« Bonjour. Un billet adulte et 13 billets étudiants pour la séance de dix-neuf heures de Harry Potter s’il vous plait en version originale. »

The jeune homme behind the guichet wanted to know if we had proof of their student status.
« Oui ils ont des justicatifs mais ils sont des étudiants australiens.  C’est vrai? Il faut acheter un billet adulte même s’ils sont des étudiants parce qu’ils sont les étrangers ? Quelle arnaque!
D’accord! Ca ve me couter combien?”

I coughed up the 10 euros per head even though they were students but “un-entitled foreigners” and we went to get something to eat to while away the 2 + hours till the cinema doors opened. But as a lucky afterthought I left my 16 y.o. son in the queue that was already starting to form outside the cinema doors….

What I had not taken into account was that “les places were not numerotées” meaning that, unlike in Australia where ones buys a movie ticket and has an allocated seat, in France it is “premier venu, premier servi” : first come first served when it comes to seating.

Now this is where their logic AND their health and safety regulations breakdown. I imagine first come first served works well on a wet night in Winter when the cinema is half empty.

On a Premier night of the most popular movie of all time it was just plain dangerous .

I raced all the teens back to where my son was wedged in a massive mosh pit of Parisian youth and our group of teens pushed and shoved our way forward till we reached his spot vaguely near the cinema entrance.

Mosh Pit Warped Tour 2005

Mosh Pit (Photo credit: mikeinlondon)

Hundreds were queuing and shoving anxiously towards the TWO doors that would eventually vomit the hordes into the cinema. I asked some of those around me if this was normal to arrive at a cinema at least 1 or 2 hours early and have to fight and strain and shove like an animal for a seat.
I was told it was.
Well it’s “premier venu, premier servi” I was told.
Yes but isn’t this dangerous?
How do you get to sit with your friends in the movie and enjoy it together if you cannot book numbered seats together?
You push and shove and queue apparently. That way everyone is seated when the movie starts because everyone queues and then rushes in quickly
And they have crushed the frail and the polite in their herd mentality to find a good seat.

I was told the French all preferred this to the system of Places Numerotées that I expounded in Australia.
They said the numbered seats system  means you must keep your ticket in your hand when you enter the cinema and then find your seat in the dark!
Yeeees…..not that hard to keep a ticket in your hand, remember the seat number and find it as the cinemas in Australia are lit to assist you do this.
Ah well you see in Paris the cinemas are dark when you go in.
What? Do we have to find seats for 14 in the dark in there?


Don’t worry, I was told. They DO have les places numerotées in France but only for the theatre where people are older and richer and prefer to enter a cinema without loss of dignity, limb or life. And anyway, apparently the French had tried our system but it was a stupid system that did not work. People still just sat anywhere and fights broke out when people contested their seats and anyway, French people like to throw their tickets away when the doors open so no one could prove where they were supposed to be seated. And anyway, the seat ushers HATED having to find seats for everyone in the dark.
It was just all too hard.

So, as minutes ticked by and hundreds of  humans crushed each other the temperature around us rose with the tension. I had visions of the Hillsborough stampede….

When the doors were finally cranked open (no warning of course) like the Running of the Bulls half of Paris youth stampeded into the very dark cinema.
Our Aussie group body-surfed in with the crowd at alarming speed and I prayed for available seats anywhere and we landed gasping in a row near the doors. The French were jumping, leaping, crashing and squealing in their atavistic zeal to get seats anywhere they could be seated with their friends.

I saw not a single assistant anywhere. I could have been at a rock concert or a prison riot.

Obviously, like most things in life, someone has to die in the crush before they may look at turning some lights on and changing the rules and insisting people sit where their ticket says they must.

Finally in our seats and busting to go to the toilet – which of course we did not dare do either in the queue or now we were safely seated  – we all enjoyed the movie together.

Severus Snape

Severus Snape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Severus Snape was Severus Rogue, Hogwarts is Poudlard? Muggles were Mouldus, Slytherin House was Serpentard , Hufflepuff  House was Poufsouffle and Hermione’s cat Crookshanks was Patt-en-rond in subtitled French.

Don’t let me put you off.

Just get there early if it is a popular movie or opening night.


One response to “Seeing a Movie in France

  1. This is true for every showing I’ve been to in Paris — even in the middle of the day for a movie that’s been out a week or two, they “line up” in an amorphous blob and then instantly fill all the seats in the theater. It’s something to behold.

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