Best Movie Theaters in Paris: A Few Favorites

Last Updated on December 11, 2023

Studio 28 is one of the best movie theaters in Paris, and the most historic among them too.
Studio 28 is one of the loveliest movie theaters in Paris– and the most historic

From Arthouse Cinemas to Modern Multiplex Screens

When it comes to cinema, Paris is a powerhouse, and not only in terms of the number of films that get made there. The French capital boasts the largest number of cinemas per capita in the world, with an astounding 450 to 500 films scheduled every week across more than 400 screens.

Being a cinephile here is far from unusual or countercultural, which is why so many cinemas sell monthly passes granting unlimited access to screens– and why the city hosts such a large number of film festivals and events, from open-air movies to weeks every year during which screenings are highly discounted.

Compiling a shortlist of the best movie theaters in Paris is no easy task, given the sheer number that operate on a daily basis. What follows are a few of my favorite spots for a matinee or an evening screening, from small arthouse theaters to gleaming new multiplexes with a wide variety of films in the spotlight.

Le Champollion

Le Champo cinema: an institution in Paris since 1938. Image credit: Courtney Traub

Situated in the heart of the Latin Quarter and just a couple of blocks from the Sorbonne University, the Champollion cinema (known by locals as “Le Champo”) first opened its doors in 1938, making it one of the city’s oldest to consistently operate.

A true independent arthouse theater, Le Champo is one of my favorite haunts for retrospectives on great periods or directors in cinema history. From Louis Malle and Marcel Carné to David Lynch and Akira Kurosawa, its “cycles” (series) dedicated to great directors have always been some of the finest in town, and it frequently screens restored classics.

It’s also a legendary place in cinema history, notably for the sorts of spectators that have occupied its seats over the years– from Jean-Luc Godard to Francois Truffaut.

{Related: Our Review of Paris Movie Walks}

In the early 2000s, Le Champo nearly shut down due to financing issues. But, buoyed by the support of countless big names in cinema, it was instead recognized as a historic city monument. This is a treasured, intimate “salle de ciné” that every cinephile should pay a visit to on a trip to the capital.

Getting There & Practical Info

Le Reflet Medicis

Reflet Medicis is another beloved Latin Quarter cinema. Image by Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
Reflet Medicis is another beloved Latin Quarter cinema. Image by Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

Just across the street from Le Champo, another beloved independent cinema in the Latin Quarter beckons with its three screens showing global new releases (mostly arthouse films), the latest selections from festivals including Cannes, and retrospectives on great moments or directors in cinema history.

Le Reflet Medicis, housed in what was formerly a celebrated Parisian cabaret, is in fact comprised of three theatres with separate programming. Head here for a matinee or early evening show, then grab a coffee or dinner at the eponymous Café Reflet next door; with its low light, university crowd and hum of intellectual conversation, you might think you’d been shuttled back to Paris circa 1968.

Getting There & Practical Info

The Reflet Medicis is one of the best movie theaters in Paris. Image: Dulac Cinemas
The Reflet Medicis is one of the best movie theaters in Paris- & one of the most historic. Image: Dulac Cinemas

L’Entrepot Cinema

L'Entrepot is a beloved neighborhood movie theatre in Montparnasse, Paris

Housing of the best independent cinemas in the Montparnasse district, L’Entrepot is an entertainment and dining complex that also includes a theatre, concert hall, bar and restaurant, and exhibition space. When I lived in the area many years ago, it was my port of call for both new films and old, generally preceded or followed by a drink or lunch at the bar or on the greenery-lined back terrace.

{Related: Our Complete Guide to Montparnasse, Paris}

Three screens show a large variety of classic and new releases, mostly independent films and picks from various festivals, including Cannes and Sundance.

Getting There & Practical Info

MK2 Quai de Seine and Quai de Loire

When the French production company MK2 opened one of their branded cinema complexes in what was then known as a rather grim stretch of Paris’ 19th arrondissement, no one could have predicted it would transform the entire waterfront area into a vibrant, crowded center for entertainment and nightlife.

But MK2 Quai de Seine and MK2 Quai de Loire– facing each other from their respective quays of the Bassin de la Villette canal– have accomplished exactly that. Housed in modern but inviting glass and metallic buildings, the sister cinemas boast several large screens and comfortable auditoriums, each showing a variety of movies, from blockbusters to critics’ choices from Cannes and other festivals.

Themed evenings, retrospectives and special events such as sneak-peek screenings with Director Q&S after the show are regular staples at the two cinemas.

Onsite restaurants, bars and cafes make it more than possible to spend a whole afternoon or evening at the complex. You can even get from one cinema to the other by boat: Simply buy a ticket at one or the other, then board a dedicated boat for a short trip across the Bassin de la Villette. It’s a small but worthwhile joy, especially on a warm evening.

Getting There & Practical Info

Studio 28 (& its Charming Bar)

Studio 28 in Montmartre is one of the oldest movie theaters in Paris. Image by Tatvam/CC BY-SA 4.0
Studio 28 in Montmartre is one of the oldest movie theaters in Paris. Image by Tatvam/CC BY-SA 4.0

Just blocks from hordes of tourists swarming around the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, a haven of cinematic history awaits at Cinéma 28, inaugurated in 1928 and one of the oldest movie houses in Paris. It’s got some serious avant-garde credentials, having been established as the city’s first truly experimental cinema, as well as stomping grounds for groundbreaking cinéastes (filmmakers) such as Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau.

One of Buñuel’s most controversial films, L’âge d’or (The Golden Age, 1930) sparked so much outrage when it premiered at the cinema the same year that the theatre was saccaged by rowdy audience members during the second showing. The film was banned in France soon after.

After falling into some disuse, the cinema was entirely refurbished in the 1950s and again in the 1990s. The single, comfortable theater at the cinema features lamps designed by Jean Cocteau.

Studio 28 also happens to be one of the loveliest spots in Montmartre for a coffee or drink before or after the cinema. Its pleasant, roomy bar and leafy terrace, the latter decorated with an enormous wall depicting cinematic legends, is a gem I’m almost reluctant to mention.

The garden and mural at Studio 28 in Paris. Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

Getting There & Practical Info

MK2 Bibliothèque

This enormous, wholly modern multiplex in the middle of the equally futuristic Bibliotheque Nationale district is a cinephile’s dream: 14 screens, over a dozen films playing at any one time, from indie runaway hits to delightfully distracting blockbusters, as well as onsite bars and restaurants.

Housed in a glass complex just steps away from the French National Library/Francois Mittérand site, it’s a favorite stop for a bit of rest and relaxation after a day of hard research at the library. I’m one to know– it was once a regular after-work haunt of mine when I was a graduate student in Paris.

Getting There & Practical Info

How to Find English-Language Films in Paris?

Many movie theaters in Paris show English-language films in "VO", or original version.
Many movie theaters in Paris show English-language films in “VO”, or original version.

If you don’t speak or read any French, you’re likely going to need to pinpoint screenings in English. Luckily, many cinemas in Paris show English-language films in “VO” (version originale or original version) with subtitles in French. Just make sure you look for the “VO” symbol next to listings, whether online or at theaters.

Conversely, “VF” means version française (French version) and means a given movie has been dubbed into French.

If you have at least a rudimentary command of French, sites such as L’Officiel des Spectacles offer complete listings of film screenings in Paris each week. And Angloinfo.com has a fairly comprehensive online program of current screenings in English.

This article at Independent Travel Cats is a great resource for decrypting cinema programs and listings in French, with a glossary of familiar terms you’re likely to come across in cinema listings for movie theaters in Paris and across France.

Postscript: A Short Note on Snacking in Parisian Cinemas

I do have one piece of advice for those of you venturing into smaller arthouse cinemas in the capital: it may be best to avoid snacking during the screening, or to mindlessly munch on something that involves as little crunching and mouth noise as possible.

{Related: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to French Etiquette}

While many larger, commercial movie theaters feature large snack bars selling popcorn, candy and other typical fodder, smaller cinemas often don’t– and spectators may frown upon your snacking if the noise “breaks the fifth wall” or otherwise interferes with their dreamlike experience.

Popcorn is especially maligned by some, and crunching on it may earn you exasperated sighs or pointed glances from fellow audience members, especially in smaller venues. You’ve been forewarned.

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Some of the best movie theatres and cinemas in Paris/Pinterest image by Paris Unlocked

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