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The Network - 23/02/2010

 

The Lux, in Caen, celebrates its 50th anniversary

 

In Caen festivities for Cinéma Lux are taking place at every turn. The cinema is celebrating half a century of activity with a host of different events. We look back over the history of this venue, which has been a member of Europa Cinemas since 1998.

Defending European cinema, engaging with young audiences and getting deeply involved in local life: these are just some of the approaches that characterise this 3-screen cinema – a film theatre which, over the years, has established itself as one of the cultural focal points in Caen, a city with a population of 110,000 in the north west of France.

Founded in 1960 by priests from the parish of Sainte-Thérèse, the Lux was initially a 500-seater cinema which, with its health center, also had a social function. After running for several years, admissions started to decline and the cinema shifted towards arthouse films, becoming a member of the AFCAE (French Association of Art House Cinemas) in 1966. In 1968, the surprise success of the film Je t’aime je t’aime by Alain Resnais boosted audience numbers again.
The Lux enjoyed its golden age in the 1970s. Under the management of Gilbert Benois, the cinema increased the number of debates, activities and collaborations outside its own four walls and by the end of the decade was experiencing record admissions.
Times were tougher during the 1980s. The Lux had to adapt to the competition presented by new cinemas and moved to different premises... only to return to its original location at a later date.
1995, the year in which the film theatre celebrated its centenary, was a turning point: a second screen was built, Didier Anne became the new director and the cinema played host for the first time to Ethnographic Cinema Week, one of its symbolic events. Gilbert Benois died in 2004, the year in which the third screen was opened.

Since 2002, the cinema’s attendances have exceeded 100,000 a year and are still on the increase. With 140,000 admissions in 2009, the Lux is posting outstanding results, and European cinema is making a significant contribution to these: two-thirds of its programming is devoted to European films. In 2008, The Class (5,300 admissions), Mia and the Migoo (4,400), Paris and It’s a Free World were the European films that attracted the biggest audiences. Last year, two films for young audiences occupied this position within the cinema’s programming – Peter & the Wolf by Suzie Templeton and Kerity, la maison des contes (Kerity, the House of Tales) by Dominique Monfery – an indication of how much the cinema invests in this particular audience. Throughout the year the Lux organises numerous activities for children and hosts national initiatives relating to cinema education. 35,000 young cinemagoers visited the film theatre in 2008! A section of its website, known as “Le Petit Lux”, also throws the spotlight on films specifically intended for young people.

The Lux is currently offering young cinemagoers an exhibition on the history of cinema entitled “Le cinéma ou la machine à remonter le temps” (“Cinema, or the time machine”), as well as workshops at which optical toys are demonstrated and produced. These initiatives form part of the numerous events that will mark 2010, “The year of cinema in Caen”. The festivities therefore got under way at the beginning of February with Enki Bilal’s spectacle Cinémonstre (at contemporary music venue “le Cargö”) and the welcoming of Andrzej Wajda for the release of Sweet Rush.
At a time when the digitisation of independent cinemas is under discussion, here, then, is an example of a cinema that has managed to move with the times and to make itself a focal point by becoming a tool for cultural activities in its region – through the organisation of debates, workshops, the running of community centres, the programming and management of other cinemas and the organisation of open-air projections, etc. The Lux is also proud to play a role in several organisations that group cinemas together, in particular – besides Europa Cinemas – the AFCAE, the GNCR (National Association of Research Cinemas) and the “Agence du court métrage” (Short Film Agency).
Happy anniversary to the Lux and congratulations to its two directors, Didier Anne and Gautier Labrusse, as well as the 14 employees and volunteers who keep the cinema running.

www.cinemalux.org

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Pictures: Lux in Caen and Je t'aime, je t'aime (Alain Resnais, 1968)