Jun 17th, 2024, 10:00 AM

Parisian Cinematic Gems

By Zara Abubakar
Image credit: Zara Abubakar
Exploring and ranking the city's independent cinema scene.

Paris is arguably the best city in the world for cinema. According to The Guardian, Paris has the most cinemas and cinema screens in the world, at a whopping 1,033 screens across 302 theaters. Many of these screens are commercial multiplexes known to most, such as MK2, Pathé-Gaumont, and UGC, screening mainstream and newly released French and international films. Equally important, if not more, are the dozens of independent cinemas dotted across the city. In addition to screening old or classic films and new art house and independent releases, many of these cinemas host events dedicated to avant-garde or experimental films, masterclasses, and workshops, as well as festivals, either free of charge or at a discounted price — making good cinema more accessible for all. Here, I go through all my favorite independent cinemas in Paris:

The Cinémathèque Française

Value: 5/5

Location: 2/5

51 Rue de Bercy, 75012

Technically, the Cinémathèque Française is not an independent cinema; it's not even a cinema on its own. The Cinémathèque is a non-profit organization that holds one of the largest film archives in the world. It houses a library, multiple screening rooms, an exhibition space, a museum dedicated to early cinema pioneer Georges Méliès, and much more, in a postmodernist building designed by Frank Gehry. Recent seasons at the Cinémathèque include retrospectives on directors Michelangelo Antonioni and William Friedkin, with upcoming seasons dedicated to director Marguerite Duras and actress Mae West. Out of all the cinemas on this list, the Cinémathèque has the best prices by far. Their "Jeudi Jeunes" offer free entry to the Musée Méliès to those under 26 every second Thursday of the month, and cinema tickets are only 4 euros for those ages 18-25. Occasionally, you can find tickets as cheap as 1 euro during select events and festivals. The only downside of the Cinémathèque is its location; it’s a bit out of the way for some, located in Bercy, in the 12th arrondissement. Fortunately, the high-speed metro line 14 can get you there quickly, and the building is surrounded by a beautiful park and green spaces, and even a merry-go-round!

Image credit: Zara Abubakar


Christine Cinema Club

Value: 4/5

Location: 5/5

4 Rue Christine, 75006

Christine Cinema Club is arguably the most well-known independent cinema in Paris. The same films are often shown cyclically every week, with curated seasons dedicated to a particular actor or director — they frequently show films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Brian de Palma, and David Lynch or films starring Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson. It’s a popular spot, and certain screenings sell out fast, so I always book a ticket in advance or come early for the more popular films and avant-premieres (press viewings before a film’s official release). Christine is located in the 6th arrondissement, in a lovely area near St.-Germain-des-Pres, nestled between crêpe booths, antique bookshops, fine art galleries, and boutiques. It’s nice to stroll around the area and consider whatever film you’ve just watched. The cinema has excellent value, with reduced ticket prices at 6 euros.


Value: 4/5

Location: 3/5

17 Bd. de Strasbourg, 75010

L'Archipel is in the 10th arrondissement, conveniently located right next to the Strasbourg-St.-Denis metro stop. Nearby, there is the Film Gallery and Re:Voir video, a gallery, and a book/video shop dedicated to promoting experimental cinema. My favorite event series here is "Elles en font des caisses," a series of screenings organized by queer filmmaker Alexis Langlois. Among my favorite films I've seen from this series are I'm No Angel (1933), starring Mae West, and Sweet Charity (1969), starring Shirley MacLaine. Another highlight from my visits to L'Archipel was a screening of Walt Stillman's Damsels in Distress (2011), where I had the opportunity to speak with the director afterward. The price is also reasonable here, with reduced tickets at 6.50 euros.

Reflet Medicis

Value: 2/5

Location: 4/5

3 Rue Champoillon, 75005

Reflet Medicis is located in the 5th arrondissement, with a slew of other cinemas just around it — such as Nouvel Odeon, Le Champo, and La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin. I enjoy their “Refl-ex-perimental” series of screenings, organized by Cinédoc/Paris Film Coop, an organization founded in 1974 dedicated to promoting avant-garde and experimental cinema. Tickets are pricier here, with reduced tickets at 9.20 euros — given there are several other cinemas in the surrounding area, Reflet is not the best value option. However, it remains a unique and memorable option to me for its experimental series, and I am grateful to have been able to view films by Kenneth Anger, Man Ray, and Pierre Clementi on the big screen here. 

Max Linder Panorama

Value: 4/5

Location: 4/5

24 Bd. Poissonnière, 75009

Located near Grands Boulevards and Bonne Nouvelle, in the 9th arrondissement, sits Max Linder Panorama; there is a nice variety of bars and restaurants to keep you busy before or after visiting. I have only been here once to see Robert Eggers’ The Northman, shortly after its release in 2022 — no one can convince me it was meant to be watched anywhere other than a theater. The cinema has a sleek snack bar and one of the largest screens in Paris at 18 meters wide — a suitable option for watching anything from newly released independent films or blockbusters, like Civil War (2024) and Dune: Part II (2024). Reduced tickets are 9 euros, but remember you are paying for a massive screen reminiscent of Cinemascope, with an incredible booming sound system. If you want a cheaper bargain, matinee screenings are 7 euros.

Luminor Hôtel de Ville

Value: 3/5

Location: 4/5

20 Rue du Temple, 75004

Shockingly, the Luminor is the only independent cinema in the Marais, located in the 4th arrondissement. I have only found myself here for experimental cinema events, at Scratch screenings organized by Lightcone. I once spotted Gaspar Noe at the Luminor at a Scratch event dedicated to the films of Argentinian filmmaker Claudio Caldini. The value is okay here, with reduced tickets ranging from 7 to 8.50 euros, but remember, your money is going to a good cause, as the Luminor is continuously threatened to be closed due to an ongoing property dispute; your tickets help keep them in business!

Image credit: Zara Abubakar

Le Grand Action

Value: 3/5

Location: 3/5

5 Rue des Écoles, 75005

Le Grand Action is located in the 5th arrondissement, with several screening rooms and striking decor, both inside and out. The interior has particularly bold designs, with painted silhouette images of old Hollywood and international cinema stars accented with bright primary colors. The theater is next to the Cardinal Lemoine metro stop and neighbors another cinema, Ecoles Cinema Club, which is a sister cinema to Christine. Their screening rooms are large and comfortable, especially in the Kelly Reichardt room, where I’ve watched Moonage Daydream (2023) and The Sweet East (2023). The price of tickets here is decent, with reduced tickets ranging from 6.50 to 8 euros.

Honorable mentions: 

Le Louxor, 10th arrondissement - Favorite film watched here: Asteroid City (2023), Wes Anderson

Studio 28, 18th arrondissement - Favorite film watched here: Greta (2018), Neil Jordan