Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is one of the biggest budgeted films in the history of cinema (197 million euros), outpacing even the most recent Star Wars movie. In the spring of 2016, actors from the blockbuster, including Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Rihanna, Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke, reported not to California, but rather to Seine-Saint-Denis – just outside Paris. For that is the home of the Cité du Cinéma, a facility dreamed up by French director, writer and producer Luc Besson that boasts ultra-modern studios and cutting edge equipment for every stage of moviemaking, from script development to post-production.
A one-of-a-kind project
When it was christened in September 2012, the Cité du Cinéma instantly earned the nickname “Hollywood on the Seine”. This grandiose project was the brainchild of Luc Besson, the successful movie director behind The Big Blue, Nikita, The Fifth Element and, more recently, Lucy and The Family. Renovating and converting a former power station into 80,000 m2 of movie production space took over 10 years and 170 million euros.
This unique complex is a commanding structure, akin to an industrial cathedral. Deep inside the power station, visitors find themselves in the gigantic “Nef” topped by a glass roof that is 200 meters long and 18 meters tall. The one-time boiler room with its multicolored graffiti was left intact.
Along the side, nine hangars ranging from 600 to 2,000 m2 house movie sets and 6,000 m2 of workshops and lofts. These comprise the Studios de Paris. Every trade and craft involved in making movies is represented: editing rooms, 3D studio, digital printing and cutting for sets, sewing workshops for costumes and more. The complex also houses the offices of several production companies, including Luc Besson’s Europacorp. Plus there are two schools to train the next generation of film professionals: École Louis Lumière and École de la Cité, founded by Luc Besson. The twoyear curriculum is free and does not require incoming students to have a degree. Over the course of training, Besson himself teaches a few master classes on the mechanics of script writing or directing to the 60-odd students, who are ideally positioned to swing right into action and express their creative potential.
A sucess in France and Abroad
The goal of the Cité du Cinéma was to create the best studios in Europe and thus bolster France’s appeal for shooting major international productions. The iconic complex truly is a high-end resource for many directors from around the world, who have fallen for the natural sets and the talent pool in the “City of Lights”. The studios are all the more attractive since, in January 2016, the French government introduced a new tax credit equal to 30% of spending for foreign productions filming in France. This incentive has already been a great success, as reported by the National Film Center after the first quarter of 2016.
The Cité du Cinéma is a city unto itself where The make-up artists, students,carpenters, sound engineers, extras and famous actors all cross paths. It has already accommodated 30 shoots (TV, shorts and feature films, advertisements) and hosted prestigious visitors such as Bill Clinton, Robert de Niro and Kevin Spacey for film productions or special events. There is a steady stream of screenings, exhibitions and business seminars. For example, Netflix, the American video streaming giant, recently organized a huge promotional event at the facility. The Cité du Cinéma is clearly running on all cylinders.
Cité du Cinéma
20, rue Ampère – 93413 Saint-Denis