Paris: what will be left of the Pagoda cinema?

Over the past few days, many Parisians have again been touched by the attitude towards this nearby cinema, famous for its Japanese architecture, while the work currently underway has already changed the place. Closed since 2015, could La Pagode as we knew it disappear?

“Here is a garden in the middle of the earth,” the Association of Landmarks and Monuments lamented on Twitter earlier in the week, lamenting that the Japanese garden that once surrounded an emblematic cinema in the 7th arrondissement of Paris was called La Pagoda and located at : bis rue de Babylone, 57, was demolished as part of a renovation project. This is despite the fact that it has been “protected” by its status as an “Outstanding Heritage Site”.

“We can easily imagine what it will turn into: a sanitized place on a concrete slab with witness potted plants, a multiplex enhanced with a “revised” Japanese façade,” someone replies in a comment. “The destruction of ancient trees, in particular gingko, [a eu lieu] as of the date of deconfinement… Protected or not, they don’t care,” reports this other netizen.

“It was a beautiful place full of exoticism and charm. A secret and protected place,” recalls Julien Lacaze, president of the Sites & Monuments association, who clarifies that his last tweet was only intended to “show the reality of things,” “show specifically what it meant to put the garden into the ground.”

The risk of this project according to him? Let this cozy garden turn into “a slab of concrete surrounded by a large glass wall, giving the impression that you are right on the street.” And to be indignant: “this is a complete distortion of the spirit of the place, which I wanted to hide a little.” As for cutting down trees, he denounces the decision of the Parisian municipality to “grant a derogation”, while in Paris it is “generally forbidden to remove open land”.

A year ago, other netizens, including Quentin Divernoix (pseudonym), one of the members of the #SaccageParis movement, already condemned the destruction of the garden and the perimeter wall. The latter scolds again today: “I didn’t understand that they were going to remove the beautiful garden in order to make a cinema in the basement.” “Worst of all, I didn’t know to what extent the site was multi-secure and that killing it was in many ways incompatible with the PLU,” he notes.

“Exemplary Restoration Project”

However, it is indeed the “exemplary restoration project” promised by the site’s buyer, American businessman Charles S. Cohen, who wanted to make the Pagoda – bought in 2017 for 16 million euros – “the standard-bearer of passion for the cinema.” To this end, he even surrounded himself with famous architects: the founder of the architectural and design agency Loci Anima, Francoise Reynaud, as well as the chief architect of historical monuments, Pierre-Antoine Gatier.

They always praised the identical reconstruction of the pavilion and the garden, “which will be recreated as Alexandre Marcel thought at the time,” as Françoise Reynaud specified. With the exception that the dilapidated condition of the building requires major work, in particular to restore the “fence and the existing building”, everything is confirmed by the services of the Department of Urban Development of the City of Paris, as well as the Regional Department of Cultural Affairs (DRAC).

“In order to preserve the restoration of the large hall in the Japanese style and provide it with all the conveniences of a modern cinema, it is necessary to remove half of the seats. […] but for the place to be profitable, I need to make two rooms in the basement,” the new owner explained last year.

Unique cinema in the 7th arrondissement

Necessary work, confirmed by Jean Lossuc, deputy for urban planning at the Mayor’s Office on the 7th, who nonetheless recalls that “DRAC is only competent in this matter.” “The building was in danger due to lack of maintenance. […] which required digging in the basement to secure the initials of La Pagode,” testifies an elected official who claims that “we had to choose between two evils”: either the collapse of the building or the destruction of the garden.

However, he is satisfied with the current project, which in all respects meets the requirements of the mayor’s office of the 7th convocation. Among them is that La Pagode “remains a cinema”, unique in the area, that “the place remains open to the area” and that it is “associated with a cultural center dedicated to cinema”. Indeed, Charles S. Cohen signed a long-term lease with the Île-de-France region, the owner of a building located at 57 rue de Babylone, which adjoins La Pagode, so that he could create a cultural center dedicated to the French language there. cinema.

When asked about this, DRAC, for its part, confirmed that the work at La Pagode, which is being carried out at 57 bis, rue de Babylone (7th), is indeed “in line with what [avait] has been authorized by the competent services of the DRAC of Ile-de-France in relation to historical monuments and outstanding heritage sites of the 7th arrondissement.”

Summer terraces will return on April 1st.

“In winter 2022,” as promised by Charles S. Cohen, likely in early 2023, this brand new 400-seat cinema will open to the public. It will have a reception pavilion and four projection rooms, including two smaller ones in the basement, each linked to a director and a designer.

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