The Grand Rex: The Pride of the Grand Boulevards in Paris

The Grand Rex: The Pride of the Grand Boulevards in Paris
One of my favorite areas in Paris is the Grands Boulevards, which most tourists know mostly because of the big department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, that are located there. But the quartier is also a center for theaters and concert halls, and the nightspots that cater to their clientele. So if it’s like what the British call the “high streets”, it also evokes London’s West End and the theater district in New York. The most famous venue here is the Grand Rex, which in December celebrated its 90th anniversary. What started as a cinema has become an entertainment complex with a dizzying array of attractions, sometimes with a kitschy vibe, but genuinely dazzling. Galeries Lafayette Terrace, courtesy of Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann The Grand Rex is first, a movie palace, built in 1932 (it’s been classified by France’s Culture Ministry as an official historical monument since 1981). There are few of these gaudy palaces left: the Kinopanorama was demolished long ago, while the Louxor was closed for years, before recently reopening. With the largest screen in Europe (aside from Imax) the Grand Rex is the place to see an especially spectacular film — currently on the bill is (what else?) the latest Avatar incarnation (coming soon: Babylon). I’m speaking of the “grande salle” (capacity 2,700) — in addition to its huge screen, the Rex is also a multiplex with six smaller rooms and screens, usually showing popcorn fare. (M3GAN anyone?) A passion to impress the public has been the Rex’s central principle from the beginning. Like other edifices of the time, it relied on the Art Deco style and Oriental and ancient motifs to leaven its gigantism. Even the human dimension was superhuman, with full-scale orchestras, troupes of ballet and tap dancers, an enormous subterranean organ. The theater also had its own police station, hospital, nursery, and even kennel.

Lead photo credit : Le Grand Rex Facade by A.hellmann on Wikimedia Commons

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.