We usually go to the cinema and let a film transport us into another world and time. But at The Grand Rex, simply entering its doors is a trip back to history in itself.
Mythical and extravagant, this huge Art Deco cinema was conceived by Jacques Haik, a Tunisian-born film producer and one of the pioneers of French cinema, known to have introduced Charlie Chaplin to the French film audience. Already the owner of the Olympia music hall, he had something grander in mind: a cinema that could seat thousands, in a space spanning 2,000 square meters. With the help of French architect Auguste Bluysen and engineer John Eberson, famous for his North American “atmospheric theaters”, The Grand Rex opened to the public in December 8, 1932.
What is striking about The Grand Rex is its atmosphere. Its Art Deco architecture is one thing, but the main cinema hall, The Grande Salle, which seats 2,750 people, transports the audience to the French Riviera. Under a star-studded sky, the cinema walls are flanked with colourful wall reliefs of Art Deco villas, giving off a true Mediterranean vibe. The cinema has three levels: the orchestra, the mezzanine and the balcony, which offers a view of the “grand large” screen – all 21 by 11 meters of it.
During the war, the Grand Rex was requisitioned by the German army, which they turned into a Soldatenkino (cinema of the soldiers), screening propaganda films. By the end of the war, the Grand Rex, like the Hotel Lutetia, became a centre d’accueil for repatriated prisoners of war, a place that saw many tearful reunions between families.
In 1957, Gary Cooper and Mylène Demongeot inaugurated the Grand Rex’s luxurious escalator, the first of its kind installed in a European cinema.
The Grand Rex today is more than just a cinema. Concerts and premieres are held in this extravagant cinema, and it has seen its fair share of Hollywood stars walking down the red carpet. It may not be the most modern theater out there, but it does continue to impress with its yearly (since 1954) “Féerie des Eaux“, where Christmas films are preceded by a spectacular fountain and light show, using 3,000 liters of water, 26 multicolored projectors and 1,200 sprinklers.
There is also a Universal Studio-like visit of the Rex’s backstage, where you go behind the scenes of the theater on an audio-guided and interactive tour.
The Grand Rex
1 Boulevard Poissonnière, 75002 Paris
Metro: Bonne Nouvelle