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For cinema-loving Parisians, movies could become a welcome diversion from terrorism

Police walk past a closed cinema as they patrol on the landmark Avenue des Champs-Elysees on the day after the attacks in Paris. Many theaters re-opened on Sunday to provide a diversion to Parisians.
Police walk past a closed cinema as they patrol on the landmark Avenue des Champs-Elysees on the day after the attacks in Paris. Many theaters re-opened on Sunday to provide a diversion to Parisians.

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The attacks in Paris have thrown the city into chaos, with even more violence occurring in the suburbs of the French capital Wednesday morning.

The city understandably remains on edge, but people are slowly starting to return to some Parisian rituals, and that includes going to the movies.

Cinema plays a big role in French cultural life. Movies were invented there, and they remain an incredibly popular diversion — from Hollywood blockbusters to low-budget domestic films. 

Nancy Tartaglione, the international editor at, joined us from France to talk about the importance of the cinema in French culture and how moviegoing might play a part in the grieving and recovery process for Parisians.

Interview Highlights:

In response to last week's attacks, musicians like Prince and Foo Fighters canceled their European tours. I'm wondering how the movie industry in France, and more broadly in Europe, have responded to the attacks.

With regard to the rest of Europe, the movie industry hasn't necessarily had to do any contraction or change anything yet. I think that's still a question mark. Within France, the movie theaters were closed beginning Saturday, and that was actually meant to last for two days, but some of the major exhibitors started opening again on Sunday morning.

As I've written, cinema-going is one of the unassailable rights that I believe that we have as Parisians. I've lived in Paris for 17 years, and whilst all of the public venues, gatherings, protests, town halls, gyms, pools [were] closed, the cinemas ended up opening. Whether people are frightened or not to go back, which is entirely understandable, it was a lovely thing that happened.

Are exhibitors in France, specifically in Paris, adding extra security? If so, what kinds of things are they doing?

I think the initial reaction was that we've already had quite strong security in place. Very sadly, this is not the first time that this has happened in Paris. The devastating Charlie Hebdo attacks in January lifted security to kind of a maximum level. There aren't metal detectors at every movie theater, but there are measures in place.

I want to talk more broadly about the French relationship to film. What does cinema mean to Paris and its residents, traditionally and historically?

It's everything. Like I said, I've lived there for 17 years and probably started visiting in the mid-'80s, and anytime you want to see "Bringing Up Baby" or "His Girl Friday," you can. And these are in theaters, you can see them on a screen. [laughs] That's what's so lovely about Paris — there's everything available, from art-house to old Hollywood classics, every new movie from every country on the planet to the latest blockbuster.

It's the seventh art, it's absolutely celebrated, and France is the birthplace of all cinema. It was born in Lyon with the Lumière brothers, and cinema is exceedingly important. In the context of what's happening right now, it's a little tough to judge that. But just talking about cinema? It's a fantastically important part of who we are.

You talked about how quickly movie theaters opened after the attacks, and I'm wondering if, going forward, due to the communal nature in which people see movies, do you think there's a possibility that moviegoing might play some sort of role in the process of grieving and recovery from these horrible attacks?

I would like to think so. Today's Wednesday, which is the day that new releases come out, and you'd like to see people going out and communing. But at the same time, I think in Paris people are still a little bit skittish. And don't forget — we had a massive police raid on suspected terrorists this morning, so that sort of dominated a large portion of the day.

Should people be going to the movies instead of watching television and seeing what's actually unfolding right now? I don't know. I think the escapism is worth it and I think we all need diversions and whatnot, but there's also a very serious thing happening right now that we should also be paying attention to.

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