Hundreds of daily-ticket-holders lined up at early morning for the Paris theaters’ reopening ceremony on June 9, marking the end of a 10-month long partial demolition of the building. The bustling scene belied the appearance of a city in a state of shock.
The theater itself was marked by a massive black cloud of dust, and there were just a few deodorant bottles on display as a personal donation to children and teens that attend the theater’s youth performances. Some employees were absent but supportive, while others were cautiously optimistic that the crowds would return in force.
The Paris Theaters complex opened in 1931 and attracted both film and theater lovers, in particular people who loved to travel to Paris and take in Paris’s cultural highlights. It was home to more than 20 cinemas, six theaters and five cabarets, and in the 1980s, the area of Saint-Denis near where the theater stands has become a popular area for artists and other creative professionals.
Construction began in 2013 after the building had suffered from decay and put on the endangered list of the World Monuments Fund. The theater closed in June 2016 and has since been decaying.
According to the Institut Français du Grand Cinematographique, the restoration was planned to allow the theater to prepare for its long-term living — or, actually, surviving.
“This immense theater was built with artistry,” Luc Jacquet, president of the Institut Français du Grand Cinematographique, said in a press release. “While carrying out the renovation, we must maintain its historically and aesthetically distinct architectural form.”
Designed by architect Emilio Fajgenbaum, this historic theater looks more like a mausoleum than a theater. Architecture Studio created this rendering of the restoration effort, which has already been called an “end-of-the-world architectural fantasy.”
During its collapse, fire and flooding destroyed the theater’s interior and exterior walls. As of late April, structural engineers were still working to restore the framework. According to RTL News, 50 percent of the theatre is still inaccessible, and the work to restore it will most likely take several years.
Johanne Rechenfeld is the author of “Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2: The Dirty Reprise.” He is the Chief Subeditor at The Paris Theaters.