Cinémathèque Française Film Center in Paris

A Treasure Trove of Movie History, Past and Present

The Cinematheque Francaise in Paris

Ashley Byock

Pretty much a required destination for movie lovers visiting the city of light, the Cinémathèque Française Film Center and Museum is dedicated to all things celluloid, past and present. Housed in a building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry-- which is noteworthy in its own right-- the Cinémathèque includes a film museum with a permanent exhibit exploring cinema throughout its short but vibrant history. It also hosts frequent temporary exhibits paying homage to specific film directors, national film traditions or periods in movie history. 

Regular Retrospectives on Classic Directors and Genres:

The center's screening rooms are host to multiple retrospectives on classic films and directors, and the program also highlights up-and-coming directors and actors. The cinemathèque also includes a film library where scholars and curious cinephiles browse a large collection of film posters, stills, photographs, and of course books and reviews. In short, if you're interested in film history and especially French cinema from the early 20th century to the present day, reserve some time for an afternoon or two at this off-the-beaten-path spot.

Paris Night - Metro on a bridge
TheRightEye / Getty Images

Location and Contact Information:

The Cinémathèque is located in the 12th arrondissement (district) of Paris, south of the Seine River and not far from the surprisingly contemporary, up-and-coming neighborhood around the National Library  (Bibliothèque Nationale) It's also in close reach of lesser-known (but pleasantly green) outdoor attractions such as the Parc de Bercy and Promenade Plantée, a romantic walkway constructed over a defunct railway line.

51 rue de Bercy
12th arrondissement
Metro: Bercy (line 6 or 14)
Tel : +33 (0)1 71 19 33 33

Visit the official website (in French only)

Opening Hours and Tickets:

Center and Cinemas: Monday through Sunday. Closed Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st. Cinema ticket counter opens daily at 12:00 pm (10:00 am on Sundays).

Cinema Museum Opening Times: The museum is open from Monday through Saturday from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Sundays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Closed on Tuesdays, December 25th January 1st and May 1st.

Cinema Library Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; Saturday from 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Closed Tuesday, Sunday and on French bank holidays.

Tickets: Admission to the permanent collections and displays is free of charge for all visitors. Entry prices vary for temporary exhibits: call ahead. Entry to temporary exhibitions is free for visitors 13 and under.

See this page for current ticket prices

The Promenade Plantee
La Citta Vita / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Sights and Attractions Nearby the Cinematheque:

Visit Highlights:

The Cinemathèque has a lot to offer, so if you want to get the full experience in, we suggest allocating an entire afternoon to exploring the permanent and temporary exhibits at the film museum, followed perhaps by a screening in the afternoon or evening. 

The Museum

A veritable treasure trove of objects and archives related to celluloid history, the permanent collection at the Cinemathèque features hundreds of artifacts. The museum traces the history of film through the development of magic lanterns and optical instruments, showing how burgeoning new technologies in the 19th century led, eventually, to the innovations that would make moving film possible. The legacies of film pioneers such as the Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès are explored in the historical exhibit.

Other noteworthy sections of the museum display legendary costumes, collections of scripts, notes and drawings, film posters, and other artifacts. Scenes from films which marked celluloid history are played throughout-- from Hitchcock to Fritz Lang, Charlie Chaplin or Francois Truffaut. Temporary exhibits have recently focused on Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Stanley Kubrick, and Jacques Tati.
Go here to download a free and complete audioguide (in English) exploring the collections at the film museum.

Screenings and Retrospectives at the Cinemathèque:

The center hosts dozens of retrospectives and thematic film programs each year, often in tandem with temporary exhibits at the museum focusing on a particular film director, genre, period or national cinematic heritage. See the current program here (in French only).