At the Bellecombe cinema in Lyon, cheap seats and local history

Tucked away in 6th Lyon, the Bellecombe cinema survived WWII, survived the advent of television and the coronavirus pandemic. The ticket is one of the cheapest in Lyon, 6 euros at the “regular rate”. Report.

At the end of December it is damp, gray and cold. Perfect weather to go see a movie at the cinema. Namely, a small neighborhood cinema is hidden at 61 rue d’Inkermann, nestled directly opposite the Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe church, at 6as well as Lyon area.

From the street, he passes imperceptibly behind the high iron gates. However, the Bellecombe cinema has been operating since 1935.

Tucked away behind this gate is the Bellecombe cinema, which also houses the courtyard of a nearby private school. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

At 60, Françoise Adrienne has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. This dynamic-looking computer scientist with big glasses on his nose has been “treasurer, projectionist and cashier” for six years at the Bellecombe cinema.

“I once went with a friend to see if the nearby cinema needed volunteers,” she says as she opens the imposing gate that hides the entrance to the cinema.

Behind them, children from a nearby elementary school are sweating profusely as they run down an athletics track painted on the pavement. The front door of the cinema stands out bright red against the cream facade at the end of the courtyard.

“On Sundays, people walk their dogs and go out into the yard. We are told that they did not think that the cinema would be open,” comments Francoise Adrien, laughing.

In Lyon, the 6th district cinema since 1935.

As soon as the threshold of the cinema is stepped over, even before watching the film, the audience is waiting for a journey through time. To the left of the entrance, a venerable mechanical cash register dispenses colored and numbered tickets. The 270-seat auditorium has rows of red leather and wood seats lined up on beautiful herringbone parquet. A heavy red curtain masks a screen framed by a piano and an old camera on a tripod.

Outside of periods of health crisis, a usher passes through the room to sell ice cream.

The adventure of this small neighborhood cinema began at the end of the 19th century. At that time, in the parish of Notre-Dame de Belcombe, named after the church adjoining the cinema, a theater was built with donations from Lyon families.

During the First World War, the premises were turned into an extension to the Charmet Hospital. The interwar period saw the birth of the Charmettes Charitable Association (ABC), which still runs the cinema today. In 1935, the theater hall also served as a cinema, a function still in place today. It became a cinema in its own right in the 1970s, even though the stage still exists under the red curtain.

“This cinema survived World War II and the advent of television,” laughs Françoise Adrien as she quickly climbs the stairs leading to the narrow projection booth. Its goal is to become a neighborhood cinema for the local audience with programs for all ages. We are not raising prices, we are trying to increase the number of viewers. »

Françoise Adrien, a volunteer at the Bellecombe cinema, has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years.
Françoise Adrien has been a volunteer at the Bellecombe cinema for five years. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

“The main part of the residents of the area investing in cinema”

To run the cinema, at least thirty volunteers from the ABC association have been working at the box office since the outbreak of the coronavirus, checking or reviewing medical records. Therefore, at each session, the presence of at least three people is required. Others are responsible for publishing the program online, on posters, or even on social media.

Fortunately, the Bellecombe cinema can count on new hires on a regular basis.

“We have young people in their 20s and 30s who came by chance one day and stayed,” says Françoise Adrien. In particular, there is a 21-year-old man studying management who is very good at cash registers.

We have a good core of residents of the area, aged 45 to 65, who have been involved in cinema for about five years.

And there are old ones. We have a volunteer who led the fund until the age of 80! »

For Françoise Adrien, this investment is largely rewarded by this “magic” moment as she sits in a jump seat at the end of a quiet room, waiting for the opening credits of the film to play.

We do not want to compete with Astoria, we focus on the residents of the area. »

Inexpensive screenings and films for all tastes, here is the Bellecombe cinema’s miracle recipe. In 2019, he broke his record with 11,626 admissions in ten months.

The cinema offers five screenings a week, taking into account the tastes and habits of the residents of the area.

“Wednesday evening is a moviegoing evening, where we will spend the last evening of Almodóvar, for example,” explains Françoise Adrien. Friday is the night of teenagers and their parents, so it will be more like Marvel. We average about thirty viewers per session. On Sunday, at 17:00, this is where the most people are. »

At the Bellecombe cinema, each ticket is unique.
At the Bellecombe cinema, each ticket is unique. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

At the end of December, the biopic The House of Gucci and the Disney cartoon Encanto, which can be found in the theater programs of Pathé, or even the Western Scream Macho by Clint Eastwood, are on display at the end of December. In early January, Almodóvar’s latest film, Parallel Mothers, and Spielberg’s latest film, West Side Story, as well as the adventure film The Secret, filmed in Cantal, are on the program.

In keeping with the premise’s old-fashioned vibe, Bellecombe used an old 35mm movie projector until 2012, when a regional grant allowed them to finally invest in digital equipment. Like a museum piece, the old projector still sits in the salon, surrounded by coils.

Dani Boone at the Bellecombe cinema: “Great, you are the only multiplex with one screen! »

Every month, volunteers gather to select films to be broadcast the following month. Due to the low number of weekly screenings, the Bellecombe cinema receives films late, four months after the official release.

A discrepancy that does not confuse the volunteers, on the contrary.

“We have some control over our program,” says Françoise Adrien, leaning over the computer that will be showing today’s film. We do not want to compete with Astoria, we focus on the residents of the area. »

Stars in her eyes, she talks about arriving at their small neighborhood cinema Dani Boone for a 2019 preview of Le Dindon.

The actor then exclaimed: “Great, you are the only one-screen multiplex! »

The old projector is sometimes still used, but only two volunteers know how to handle it.
The old projector is sometimes still used, but only two volunteers know how to handle it. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

Cinema adapted to the Bellecombe area, in full mutation

Since the 1930s, the Bellecombe area has changed a lot. Françoise Adrien, who lived there for 20 years, has seen it transform at full speed in recent years. The Charmettes hospital was demolished and the old HCL laundries were turned into apartments. New buildings are springing up like mushrooms after the rain, attracting young couples and families with small children.

The Bellecombe cinema also intends to offer these new residents personalized programs.

“We’re trying to get these 30-somethings with their kids to tell them they have an apartment next door and a movie theater with it! smiles Françoise Adrian. For example, we offer 40-minute classes for children ages 3 and up. »

Volunteers spare no effort to make cinema famous. The cinema’s large illuminated sign has been renovated and now shines in the evening over Inkermann Street. To the left of the main gate, glass panels were attached to display films. Volunteers visit local businesses monthly to join the program.

“We have a good reputation in this area,” says Françoise Adrien. If we are late, people ask us about the program. »

Vintage leather seats.  When they give up the ghost, the volunteers often leave the space free to accommodate people with limited mobility.
Vintage leather seats. When they give up the ghost, the volunteers often leave the space free to accommodate people with limited mobility. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

The ABC Association maintains close ties with the parish as well as City Hall 6as well as Lyon area.

“We keep programs at the bottom of the church, it works well. We even organized a meeting with the parish, showed the film “Fatima”. On Christmas Day, City Hall on the 6th offered a screening of the cartoon Nico the Reindeer. »

The cinema regularly hosts students from the nearby private school Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe, as well as from the public school Antoine Rémond, which is within walking distance.

“Bellecombe cinema’s goal is to bring people together”

As with many other structures, the health crisis has been a hard test for the Bellecombe cinema. Françoise Adrienne still remembers the brutal announcement of the closure of cinemas on March 14, 2020, immediately after the Saturday screening, and the amount of ice cream that had to be sold in the neighborhood in order to sell out the stock.

“We had CNC assistance, like other theaters,” she reassures. When we were able to reopen, we extended the sessions just in case. People switched to a mask, gel and subscriptions. We never had problems or scandals because of this. »

In addition to showing films, the Bellecombe cinema plays a social role in the area that was undermined during the health crisis.

“We have people who come alone, isolated, elderly people with whom we find time to discuss. Some even have their favorite spot, like the living room! The purpose of this cinema is to bring people together. »

So, during the closing of the cinema, volunteers organized the distribution of producer’s baskets in the yard.

Neither World War II, nor television, nor the massive advent of digital technology, nor the health crisis can defeat the small neighborhood cinema. As soon as it reopened, the patrons returned to their seats, and the volunteers intend to expand their programs to attract new viewers.

Françoise Adrian is not worried about the future.

“It survives, this movie theater,” she laughs, before asking about the next film to be made.

Cinema Bellecombe can accommodate 270 spectators.
Cinema Bellecombe can accommodate 270 spectators. ©OM/Rue89Lyon

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