Opened in 1948, the Paris Theater is New York City’s longest-running arthouse cinema and the only single-screen movie theater in Manhattan. The 571-seat theater often showed art films and foreign films, and it became a destination for motion pictures by directors including Federico Fellini and Franco Zeffirelli. After remaining closed since the start of the pandemic, the Paris Theater is ready to reopen its doors on August 6.

Paris Theater interior
Courtesy of The Brinsons.

The Paris Theater was opened by Pathé Cinema on September 13, 1948. Marlene Dietrich, the German actress who played Lola in “The Blue Angel,” cut the inaugural ribbon in front of the U.S. Ambassador to France. The building, located at 4 West 58th Street, was designed by Emery Roth & Sons, the architectural firm involved in large-scale projects like the Pan Am Building and the World Trade Center while under the leadership of Richard Roth.

Its first film was “Symphonie Pastorale” by the nearly-forgotten French director Jean Delannoy. In 1951, the theater drew criticism for its three-film series “Ways of Love”; the subject matter of Robert Rossellini’s “The Miracle” enraged the Catholic Church, and hundreds of protesters crowded around the theater for weeks with Cardinal Spellman at the helm from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Paris Theater was ordered to stop showing the film, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the banning was a violation of free speech.

NY Times Opening Day
Courtesy of The Brinsons.

Hit films like “A Man and A Woman,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Metropolitan,” “A Room With a View,” and “Belle de Jour” were introduced to the U.S. with a theatrical run at the Paris Theater. Many French films, as well as films in other languages, had their premieres and special showings at the theater.

In 1990, Pathé lost its lease, and Loews Theatres took over operations, renaming it the Fine Arts Theatre. In 1994, the theater was purchased by Sheldon Solow, a New York-based real-estate developer and owner, and it changed hands again in 2009 when City Cinemas became its operator.

Paris Theater exterior
Courtesy of The Brinsons.

Following renovations to give the theater a new light — including new carpeting, drapes, a red marquee and Paris logo, and installing an ADA compliant bathroom and stage lift — Netflix leased the Paris Theater to use it for Netflix-original movie debuts, special events and other screenings in 2019. Netflix looks to premiere engagements of new films, repertory screenings, filmmaker series, retrospectives, discussions programs, and an exclusive sneak-preview club.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, said in 2019 “After 71 years, the Paris Theatre has an enduring legacy, and remains the destination for a one-of-a kind movie-going experience. We are incredibly proud to preserve this historic New York institution so it can continue to be a cinematic home for film lovers.”

Paris Theater interior
Courtesy of The Brinsons.

To celebrate its return, filmmaker Radha Blank is curating a program of repertory titles to screen alongside her directorial debut “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival. “I made ‘Forty-Year-Old Version’ in 35mm Black & White in the spirit of the many great films that informed my love of cinema,” said Blank. “I’m excited to show the film in 35mm as intended and alongside potent films by fearless filmmakers who inspired my development as a storyteller and expanded my vision of what’s possible in the landscape of cinema. That ‘Forty-Year-Old Version’ gets to screen alongside them at the Paris theater, a N.Y. beacon for cinema, makes it all the more special.”

Paris Theater sign
Courtesy of The Brinsons.

Blank selected the following titles to screen in the first few days: John Cassavetes’s “Shadows” (35mm), Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon” (35mm), Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank” (35mm), Kathleen Collins’s “Losing Ground” (Digital) followed by a discussion with Kathleen Collins’ daughter, Nina Collins, Nick Castle’s “Tap” (35mm), Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” (4K Digital), Christopher Guest’s “Waiting for Guffman” (35mm), Hal Ashby’s “The Last Detail” (Digital), Robert Townsend’s “Hollywood Shuffle” (35mm) followed by a video conversation with Townsend.

Following the opening week engagement, the theater will play films that premiered at the Paris Theater over the years:

Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman
Bertrand Blier’s Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Digital)
Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (Digital)
Louis Malle’s The Lovers (35mm)
Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (35mm) (with Stillman in person)
Albert & David Maysles’s Grey Gardens (Digital)
Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie (35mm)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (35mm)
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry (35mm)
Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (35mm) and The Namesake (35mm)
James Ivory’s Room With A View (Digital)
Ira Deutchman’s Searching for Mr. Rugoff (with Ira Deutchman in person)
Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise (35mm)
Todd Haynes’s Carol (35mm)
Roger Vadim’s ….And God Created Woman (35mm)
Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style (35mm)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (35mm)
Jacques Becker’s Casque D’Or (35mm)
Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (35mm)
Orson Welles’s Othello (Digital)
Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana (35mm) and Belle de Jour (35mm)
Just Jaeckin’s Emmanuelle (DCP)
James Ivory’s Maurice (Digital) and Howards End (Digital)
Jean-Charles Tacchella’s Cousin Cousine (Digital)
Alain Tanner’s La Salamandre (Digital)
Terence Davies’s The House of Mirth (35mm)
Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name (Digital)
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (35mm)

Next, check out 6 Recently Lost Theaters (Or Closing Soon) in NYC!