Cinémas en Plein Air
by Mary Kay Seales
One thing many travelers want desperately to do is to somehow connect with the locals when they travel abroad. Have a real conversation. Beyond the restaurant, store or bakery chit-chat. This can be difficult, right?
Usually language is the major problem when traveling, but if you’re going to France, many or most of the people you meet speak at least some English, and you will find the French people completely lovely and willing to share their local knowledge with you IF you can just find a way to somehow not be a tourist for a minute
Perhaps, you wish you could find a way to practice the conversational French you’ve been learning back home, and would love to interact with the local people in a more natural way. But again, how do you move beyond that role of tourist?
Here’s one solution I’ve found for this, which has worked for me when I’m traveling on the French Riviera, though you could also do this in Paris and probably most cities in France in the summer: Go to the cinémas en plein air, or open-air cinemas, which occur regularly in many French cities during the summer months!
Cannes, Monaco, Villefranche-sur-mer, and many other cities along the coast offer outdoor movies for locals and tourists alike all summer long, as does Paris.
But I Don’t Speak French! How can that work?
You might be asking, ‘Aren’t the movies in French? I don’t speak that well, and certainly not enough to understand a whole movie.’
But here’s the thing. Many of the movies are shown in the Version Original (VO), the original version, meaning they are often in English with French subtitles. For example, one movie I hope to see this summer when I’m in France is the latest iteration of the Ocean’s movies, Ocean’s 8, with an all-star female cast. This one is being shown in English with French subtitles at several of the open-air cinemas, for example in Monaco and Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Monaco’s open-air cinema, as you would expect, is quite polished, like a regular movie theater. But hey, no roof! Sitting in your plush seat with a glass of wine, waiting for the movie to start while the sun sets over the Mediterranean, which is just a few feet away, is just a perfect way to spend an evening, and meet some locals.
The Cinema de Plein Air in the charming town of Villefranche, my personal favorite of these open air cinemas, takes place in a bloody (not really) 16th Century castle – La Citadelle de Saint-Elme. It’s a WOW setting, and quite a treat to wander through the castle grounds before the movie, and then settle in for the show with a view of the sea below.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the little city just next door to Villefranche, has their movies on a little outdoor area above their posh yacht club with room for only about 50 chairs. It feels quite intimate, like being in someone’s back yard. I plan to catch the restored classic, Cinema Paradiso, which will be shown at Le Cinéma de Beaulieu en Plein Air this summer on July 20.
When I went to this little theater in Beaulieu last summer, I was the only outsider in attendance, the rest of the spectators mostly older French locals enjoying a summer evening out. An older gentleman sitting next to me started a conversation while we waited for the movie to start, and ended up giving me a ride back to my apartment in Villefranche. That was great, and since he didn’t speak much English, I could practice my newly learned French phrases.
Cheap, Easy & Oh, So Lovely
The backdrops for all the movies couldn’t be better as they always involve a view of the setting sun over the ever-blue Mediterranean Sea. And for me this combines several of my loves all at once: the sea, movies, the outdoors, summer, the French Riviera, and popcorn!
I also love hanging out in France in a setting that puts me in the middle of everyday people who are just living their lives, in a setting where you can engage in a real conversations with the locals.
So if you’re looking to do something fun, off the beaten track, and completely non-touristy, try the open-air cinemas on the French Riviera, and other cities throughout France. They’re fun, cheap easy, the settings are truly spectacular, and you might have a chance to practice your bonjours and bonsoirs. Really, what more could you want?
“Cinema is universal, beyond flags and borders and passports.”
Mexican Film Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cinemas en Plain Air on the French Riviera & Paris:
Cannes: Cannes Ciné Quartier
Villefranche Cinéma de Plein Air:
Monaco: Open Air Cinema Monaco
Terrasses du Parking des Pêcheurs, Ave de la Quarantaine
Beaulieu-sur-Mer: Le cinéma de Beaulieu en plein air:
Paris: Festival de Cinema en Plein Air 2018
Our apartments in Nice and Paris will give you an ideal base to visit these shows. In Nice take the train – quick cheap and saves parking issues. In Paris the Metro involves one change to get on Line #1 one to La Villette