If you think about it, two of the French words most frequently used in English are cuisine and cinéma. Cuisine is the French word for kitchen, while cinéma, on the other hand, is a word derived from the first actual movie projector, the cinématographe, which was invented by the Lumière brothers in Lyon.
Unsurprisingly, Paris continues to be one of the leading capitals of cinema and, of course, cuisine, both of which go remarkably well together. A French meal after a watching a movie at one of the many glorious movie palaces the city has to offer is an every day–yet decadent–French pleasure.
Cinéma Arts et Essai in Paris (Arthouse Cinemas)
The French elevate so many (even mundane) aspects of life to art. There are the arts de la table (entertaining and presenting food and drink), the art culinaire (culinary arts), and l’art de vivre (the art of enjoying life). And so, too, the French recognize film as both entertainment and a true art form.
In addition to giving rise to the movie experience, France has played a pivotal role in keeping the art of cinema alive and thriving, thanks in no small part to being home to what is arguably the largest number of arthouse cinemas (thirty-nine) of any city. Film historian and tour guide, Juliette Dubois, explained to me that the French have always considered cinéma as a cornerstone of their culture, and that André Malraux (France’s first culture minister) elevated the official designation of cinéma from a business to that of a cultural heritage.
To survive and remain competitive with streaming and multi-plex theaters, some of the arthouse cinemas have expanded their offerings to also include world cinema, animated films, first, second, and third run movies, and live theater simulcasts in addition to film classics. The neighborhood around Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter (5ème and 6ème), home to the Sorbonne University, is, unsurprisingly, the hub of arthouse cinemas, and not lacking for great restaurants. I’ve singled out some of my favorite film-and-food finds.
Le Champo and Le Balzar
With its neon art deco sign and streamlined façade, Le Champo (51 Rue des Écoles, 5ème) is the first arthouse movie theatre that captured my cinephile heart decades ago. Famous French film director François Truffaut affectionately called it his headquarters, and Claude Chabrol said the theater was his second University. This treasure on the corner of 51 Rue des Écoles was the perfect place to watch Rashomon as I imagine the great Akira Kurosawa meant for it to be seen. Conveniently located just down the street from the theater, the classic Alsatian Brasserie Le Balzar (49 Rue des Écoles, 5ème) is a perfect place to enjoy a satisfying meal after taking in a classic film next door. This is my go-to place for a fragrant Choucroute Garni, the Alsatian Sauerkraut dish cooked in Alsatian wine and served with potatoes, sausage, and ham hocks. Since opening in 1894, Le Balzar has drawn academics and big names like André Malraux, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and, more recently, Tom Hanks, who was a regular while in town filming The Da Vinci Code.
Filmothèque du Quartier Latin and Bouillon Racine
When my wife texted me not long ago that the great Cary Grant classic People Will Talk was playing at Filmothèque du Quartier Latin (9 Rue Champollion, 5ème) it was clear that we had a perfect Paris dinner-and-a-movie date-night ahead. Nestled in the impossibly narrow Rue Champollion, this cozy arthouse cinema takes pride in showing no commercials and, on any given week, you’re as likely to find a Korean horror movie (The Host), as an American Noir (Sunset Boulevard), or a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster (La La Land). After the screening, you can stroll four blocks to Bouillon Racine, (3 Rue Racine, 6ème) one of the most stunning Art Nouveau restaurants in Paris, for a dinner of classic French cuisine such as Escargots, Foie Gras, or one of the best Pots au Feu (Pot Roasts) in Paris. The three-course dinner menu for €35 is a value you’d be hard pressed to beat in Paris these days.
Cinéma du Panthéon and Café de la Nouvelle
Just two blocks from its namesake monument, Le Cinéma du Panthéon (13 Rue Victor Cousin, 5ème), is one of the oldest continually operating movie theaters in the world (since 1907). It was owned by Jean-Luc Godard’s original movie producer and played an important role in the history of French New Wave cinema, screening the films of young directors such as François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Alain Resnais. Even the ticket prices – between €5 and €8,50 – seem from another era. If you want to discuss the flick over food, I recommend heading three blocks to the great neighborhood eatery, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie (19 Rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques, 5ème), a neighborhood zinc bar/résto on the charming square Place de l’Estrapade (which is featured in Emily in Paris). For dessert I strongly recommend the seasonal Clafoutis, a dish that’s surprisingly hard to find on restaurant menus.
Studio Galande and Le Petit Pantoise
Studio Galande (42 Rue Galande, 5ème) for great new-ish and old flicks (and a weekly Rocky Horror midnight show with a complete shadow cast). For sublime home-style food after your screening check out Le Petit Pantoise (9 Rue de Pontoise, 5ème) which also has great meatless options such as an artichoke tatin parmesan; a sharable beet, apple, and goat cheese Mille-feuille; roasted Camembert; and vegetable ravioli.
Le Arlequin and Aux Prés
Le Arlequin (76 Rue de Rennes, 6ème) was the perfect venue for me to see the brilliant Empire of Light, director Sam Mendes’ powerful new film about a young man of West-Indian roots and an older woman (the brilliant Olivia Coleman) with a troubled past whose lives intersect in the turbulent 1980s. For a time, the Art Deco vintage movie theater where they work is a haven from the outside world of coastal England. After the movie, mosey over to the very happening Rue du Dragon for a bite. If you’re looking for a spectacular Michelin starred experience there’s celebrity chef Cyril Lignac’s dazzling Aux Prés (27 Rue du Dragon, 6ème), or the wood oven cooking at Didon.
Cinema Balzac, Mac-Mahon, and Solis
Cinema Balzac and Cinéma Mac-Mahon (5 Av. Mac-Mahon, 17ème) are each within two blocks of the Champs-Élysées. Solis restaurant on the nearby 39 Avenue Wagram is an ideal place to share ideas and dishes from Mediterranean inspired menu. (Get a table in the garden room in the back if you can.)
Le Grand Action and Grand Mosquée
At Le Grand Action (5 Rue des Écoles), you might have to choose between the latest Spielberg or a classic Orson Welles. The ten-minute walk is well worth it to catch a bite at the restaurant of the Grand Mosquée de Paris (2bis Pl. du Puits de l’Ermite, 5ème) for some of the best North African food and desserts in town. (Be sure to pick up a bag of the sublime Pistachio baklava for two Euros each on your way out.)
Paris Movie Theaters for Children
On a trip to Paris twelve years ago, I took my daughter to see the Steven Spielberg film version of Tintin at L’épée de Bois arthouse cinema on the boundlessly cool Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris (dating back to Roman times). This theater, which makes an effort to show movies for younger viewers, is a great place to introduce kids to the experience of watching a movie projected on real film. At the Tintin screening the projector’s lamp burnt the celluloid and they had to pause the film until they could splice the ends of reel back together. Studio des Ursulines (10 Rue des Ursulines) is a theater dedicated to quality children’s films (that grown ups will also enjoy) in the 5eme arrondissement.
For an off-the-charts good time, take in a movie and a meal next time you’re in Paris. You won’t regret it. And you’ll be doing as the French do!
Philip Ruskin is an External Lecturer (ESSEC Bus. School), Consultant (food & travel marketing), writer, drummer and regular contributor to Frenchly. He loves to bike around his adopted hometown of Paris. Find him here, on Instagram. Photos taken by the author.