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We take you to the Eden-Théâtre, the oldest cinema in the world still in operation


The Eden-Théâtre, in La Ciotat near Marseille, is the oldest cinema in the world still in operation. She made her entry into the Guinness Book, the book of records, after turning 132. It is there that the first public and paying screenings of the films of the Lumière brothers, the inventors of the cinematograph, took place in 1899. This approval is a great reward for the teams of this small association room with 200 seats, on the edge of the river. wed. franceinfo visited the places.

The Eden-Théâtre is an ocher building facing the sea. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is indeed a cinema. If it was so baptized, it is because it was built in 1889. “The cinema did not yet exist, it was invented in 1895”, explains Marie-Laure Smilovici, the director and great-granddaughter of the historic owners. The poster for the very first Eden screening, in 1899, is also on display in the entrance to the small cinema. It advertises around twenty light films, including “Launch of a ship at La Ciotat”. The price of the chair is then 75 cents.

On the same wall, the record poster will soon be enthroned, the result of two years of work to prove the history of this cinema, long considered a legend. “There was always someone to tell ‘My grandmother knew my grandfather in Eden’, but today we have gone from an urban legend to international recognition. “, enthuses Michel Cornille, president of the association Les Lumières de l’Eden, which is responsible for making the cinema work today. Obtaining the record is also the consecration of a long family fight to save this movie theater from the hands of real estate developers.

With its red seats, of course, Eden looks more like “an Italian theater”, as Marie-Laure Smilovici says, than to a contemporary cinema. The seats each bear a plaque in the name of the celebrities who attended a screening in the century-old cinema. In the first row, we find the name of the Lumière family, but also that of Yves Montand. “He came to sing in the years 1938 – 1939 on the cinema stage”, underlines Michel Cornille.

Upstairs, you can enter the projection booth. “Today, it is equipped with the latest technologies since we broadcast all our films digitally, details Michel Cornille. But once a month, we go and get a reel and we play a film in analogue. ” Every year, 1,200 screenings are screened at Eden, works of heritage, but also art and essay films or others for young audiences.



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