I was in Paris last week and I went to the cinema – not just any cinema, but the magnificent cinema above. It’s a place I’ve passed it many times on trips to Paris over the years, but previously the building was always derelict and boarded up. Apparently, it had been that way since the 1980s. But recently it has undergone a three-year long restoration and the regenerated Louxor – Palais de Cinema opened in April this year.
It’s a beautiful example of Egyptian-inspired Art Deco that followed in the wake of the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – except that this theatre was built the year before Carter’s epic find, in 1921. One theory is, it was designed this way to capitalise on the massive success of the 1917 silent film Cleopatra staring Theda Bara.
After the cinema closed, the building was a disco and a gay nightclub. Now it’s back to showing films. Good films, too, with an eclectic programme heavy on arthouse and world cinema, the latter reflecting the make-up of neighbouring multi-racial Barbès district.
The Ancient Egyptian theming isn’t limited to the mosaics and columns on the façade – the main auditorium also has a painted relief spanning the whole of the room and moldings of pharaonic heads. I particularly loved the 1920s bar up on the third floor, which has a small outdoor terrace from where you can see the roof-line mosaics close up – or, if you are facing the other way, the domes of nearby Sacré-Cœur. You can use the bar even if you aren’t intending to watch a film. The Louxor is in front of Barbès-Rochechouart Metro station, one stop from the Gare du Nord.