French cinemas face 400-film backlog as they prepare to reopen

France's love affair with cinema threatens to be an overwhelming experience next week, when theatres finally reopen -- the scheduling nightmare of a massive backlog of 400 films.

French cinemas face 400-film backlog as they prepare to reopen
No less than 45 films are slated for release when cinemas reopen on May 19 after six months of pandemic-induced closure -- two to three times the usual number. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY/ AFP

On the outskirts of Paris, cinema owner Stephane Goudet is poring over the long list of options, trying to figure out how to gives as many films as possible their shot at succeed.

“It’s like a giant Tetris!” he told AFP.

Some had just been released and were scoring well when the second lockdown in October stopped them in their tracks.

READ ALSO: Cafés, shops, cinemas: How France will ease Covid restrictions from next week

Among them were French film “DNA”, by award-winning director Maiwenn. And also doing well when the curtains fell was Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round”, starring Mads Mikkelsen, which picked up this year’s foreign film Oscar.

No less than 45 films are slated for release when cinemas reopen on May 19 after six months of pandemic-induced closure — two to three times the usual number.

The authorities have encouraged cinemas to play multiple films in each screening room, so Goudet crams in 18 movies across his six screens for the opening week.

Cafes, restaurants, cinemas and museums will reopen partially on May 19, 2021 after seven months amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP

Local and international

Audiences at France’s 2,000-plus cinemas enjoy both international hits and the products of its own prolific film industry.

There are the Oscar winners to catch up with, including best picture winner “Nomadland” and local success “The Father” from French writer-director Florian Zeller, for which Anthony Hopkins won his second best actor award. It also picked up best adapted screenplay.

Long-delayed Hollywood blockbusters will also soon start taking up space, including superhero slugfests “Black Widow” and “The Suicide Squad”, from the Marvel and DC stables respectively.

And the Cannes Film Festival, pushed back this year to July from its usual slot in May, also will also unleash a barrage of new releases.

The big cinema chains have abandoned attempts to coordinate a calendar.

But France’s independent theatres and distributors are still determined to find some agreement to keep smaller films from being lost in the deluge.

“What we want to avoid is a situation where 40 to 60 films a week are looking for screens, especially if distributors rush to release films before Cannes takes place,” Etienne Ollagnier, of distributor Jour2Fete and the Syndicate of Independent Distributors (SDI), told Screen Daily last month.

READ ALSO: French cinema club for English speakers has new online screenings

‘Terrific diversity’

Despite the logistical headaches, which also include added health protocols and a 35-percent capacity limit in the first weeks, there’s a festive spirit in the air.

And while many cinemas in the US have gone bust in the past year, that is less of a threat in France, said Elisha Karmitz, co-head of France’s renowned production house and cinema chain MK2.

“We have a different model that isn’t so dependent on blockbusters,” Karmitz told AFP. “It’s that diversity that preserves the French film industry in its entirety.”

And of course, the backlog is also a film buff’s dream.

“We’re going to be able to offer something for every type of cinema-goer, with a terrific diversity,” said Aurelie Delage, who runs the Megarama cinema in Angoulême in southwest France.

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5 things to do in Paris on Mother’s Day

Mother's Day in France falls on June 4th, here Lost in Frenchlation's Sequoia Alonso offers her five top tips for ways to celebrate in Paris.

5 things to do in Paris on Mother’s Day

Visit a flowery cafe for brunch

Nothing screams Mother’s Day more than springtime and nature. But, what if you want an even greater Parisian experience, and some food to go with it?

Paris is full of corner cafés bursting to the brim with flowers along the building walls and above awnings. Perhaps the cutest example of this is La Favorite – the pinkest café in Paris (and a well-known hangout for Instagram influencers). You can find La Favorite here.

See a stand-up comedy show

Sarah Donnelly is an American who has been living in Paris for a while now, and she knows both the American and Parisian ways of life.

She used to have a show called Becoming Maman, a comedy special about being an American Mom of French kids, which is available on YouTube. Her current show is called The Only American in Paris, in which she talks about her life and motherhood.

You can go see her on Saturday, June 3rd, at the Theatre Saint Bo Martin – tickets here.

View some antique jewellery

A new exhibition opens at L’École, the School of Jewellery Arts, on June 2nd, just in time for Mother’s Day. Called A New Art: Metamorphoses of Jewellery, 1880-1914, it explores and showcases amazing pieces from the era that aren’t regularly exhibited, including some from private collections.

This is a rare opportunity to see some fantastic antiques – tickets here.

Have a theatre trip

Theatres in Paris host numerous English-speaking shows, and there is no shortage of them on Mother’s Day weekend, as well as some opera that is performed with English subtitles in projection.

Shows on June 3rd and 4th include A Brilliant Idea, The Bald Soprano, The Lesson, La Bohème, La Traviata and The Lion King. You can find out more and buy tickets here.

Catch a Mother’s Day film screening

On Mother’s Day itself (June 4th, remember) you could take her to the cinema.

Lost in Frenchlation hosts a screening of Alexis Michalik’s Une Histoire d’Amour, a moving tale of love, family, and overcoming hardships in life. There will also be a special Ciné Balade tour starting at 5pm for a fun and informative new experience in the city, celebrating French and international movies that have been shot around Paris.

The screening will start at 8pm with the bar and pre-screening event opening at 7pm. Located at the unique boat-themed cinema Club de L’Etoile in the 8th arrondissement, this is one of the most interesting experiences you can give your mother for her special day. You can find tickets here.