Utopia (cinema)

Utopia is a French network of independent cinemas founded by Anne-Marie Faucon and Michel Malacarnet . It is now established in Avignon , Bordeaux , Montpellier , Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône , Pontoise , Toulouse and Tournefeuille .

Utopia cinemas have three Art and Essay labels  : Young Audiences, Directories and Research and Discovery.

They are founding members of the association Independents Solidaires et Federates .

Utopia publishes a monthly magazine, the Gazette d’Utopia , a small magazine presented in the form of a newspaper, where we find the release of films broadcast with synopses, reviews and session schedules. It is available free of charge in Utopia cinemas.


After having created and directed the cinemas Le Seize 35 and Arsenal in Aix-en-Provence from 1971 to 1977, Anne-Marie Faucon and Michel Malacarnet inaugurated in 1976 the first Utopia hall in Avignon. Subsequently, fifteen other cities counted Utopia cinemas within them (Bayonne, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Paris, Toulon, Toulouse, Valencia …) 1 . Although all Utopia cinemas have great similarities (decor, programming, layout of the Gazette ), each one is legally independent.

In 2010, Utopia, in partnership with Les Films du Paradoxe , set up the “Video in Pocket” alternative distribution circuit, which consists of buying a DRM- free movie by winning a USB 2 key . In early 2016, the catalog is rich with 150 works available for five euros each in a dozen participating cinemas 3 .

Objectives of Utopia cinemas

Utopia cinemas are defined as a “cinematographic cultural animation project of proximity” [ref. necessary] . They intend to contribute to local cultural diversity and the creation of social ties.

Trying to escape the sole rule of profit, Utopia tries to offer a diversified programming and to give a chance to small producers and independent distributors. The Utopia cinemas receive only a small advertising budget, yet the price of tickets is much lower than the major retail company as UGC or Gaumont  : squares of the price ranges from 3,50  to 7,00  according to the prices.

Utopia cinemas are also a meeting place for filmmakers, but also a place for debate on social issues. For example, during the vote on the European Constitution , many debates took place in the Utopia cinemas. More recently, journalist Serge Halimi came to participate in a debate after the screening of Désodubages Cathodiques , a documentary very critical of television media.

In order to contribute to cultural diversity, these cinemas alternate low-budget independent films (for example: Ni vieux, or traitors by Pierre Carles ), often intended for a relatively informed audience, and big-budget films (for example: The Lord of rings ). In addition, Utopia tries to contribute to the training of young audiences by collaborating throughout the year with schools and extracurricular schools such as leisure centers, but also with associations dealing with autism , literacy , etc.

As far as foreign films are concerned, they are all screened in the original version with subtitles, only children’s films being broadcast in French.

The rooms

Utopia Avignon

There are two Utopia cinemas in Avignon:

  • “La Manutention” (four rooms), located at 4 rue des Escaliers Sainte-Anne (courtyard Maria Casares, behind the palace of the popes ),
  • “Utopia-Republic” (a room), located at 5 rue Figuière. It is historically the first Utopia Hall in France.

Some sessions and cinematographic meetings take place in July as part of the festival of Avignon “in”. Many preview sessions, often with the director’s meeting, take place all year long.

A café, the “Bistrot d’Utopia” and a restaurant, “La Manutention”, with terraces, are adjacent to the cinema “Utopia-Handling”.

In the autumn, for 35 years, is organized each year, from 20  h  30 to dawn, a “night of the fantastic film”, presenting four or five films. Spectators are invited to come dressed in the theme of terror and thrill, while a buffet is offered by the Bistrot d’Utopia to satiate between sessions.

Utopia Bordeaux

The Utopia Bordeaux is located at 5 place Camille-Jullian , inside what was the Saint-Siméon church 4 . It has five projection rooms and a small bar restaurant. It is the regular place of many debates after the projection of militant films. Involved in the social life of Bordeaux, considered as a “very active leftist animation center” by the mayor 5 , Utopia Bordeaux participates, for example, in the organization of the local social forum of Gironde 6 .

Utopia Montpellier

Utopia took over the former Diagonal Campus, threatened with extinction in May 2007. Located on the outskirts of the city center, near the Paul-Valéry University , it has two rooms. It was completely renovated and inaugurated on September 28, 2007. It has the ambition to offer an atypical programming, rich in animations, essentially made of films in “second exclusivity” kept on display for several weeks, associated with some outings in exclusivity of rare films generally disdained by other cinemas – as well as, very occasionally, releases of more widely exposed and carefully chosen films. In December 2014 the cinema becomes SCOP under the name Utopia Sainte Bernadette 7. In October 2016 a third small room (43 seats) is opened in the attic of the building, bringing the total capacity of the cinema to 250 spectators.

Utopia Paris

In 1985 , Utopia takes the Quartier Latin cinema, opened in 1956 at o  9 of rue Champollion in the th  district, and operates until 1995 8 . On this date, the hall is called the Latin Quarter Film Library and is still in operation in 2016 9.

Utopia Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône

Utopia Saint-Ouen consists of two cinemas. One, equipped with five rooms, is located in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône , the other, of one room, is established in Pontoise .

In Saint-Ouen, spectators of the Utopia cinema have created an association: the Utopia Cinema Spectators’ Association (ASCUt) 10 . It aims to create the meeting between the spectators, but also to fight, for example, against the project of extension of the UGC Ciné Cité of Cergy-le-Haut which would lead, according to the association, to the extinction Art and City Halls 11 .

Utopia Toulouse

Utopia Toulouse (three halls), opened in 1993, is located rue Montardy in the premises of a former cinema (the Rio), in the immediate vicinity of the metro station Capitole . Utopia Toulouse received the Trophy of the Art and EssayHall in 2001.

Formerly opera house of the Royal Academy of Music (founded in the xvii th  century) 12 , this cinema has three rooms decorated and a great relief – a remnant of the original opera house – is visible in the entrance hall. Utopia airs movies and animated films for all, from 3 years old, in original version with French captioning 13 . The sessions are scheduled in order to project a meeting of each film a day, and this low-budget 14 . For twenty years this cinema has released foreign films and low-budget films. These films are most often related to news and human relationships. It is a cinema classified Art and EssaySince 2001. The layout of the hall has been reversed, it is accessed today by the old entrance of the artists of the opera, while the public entered by the current street of Lieutenant-Colonel-Pélissier. She entered the era of cinematography under the name of American Cosmograph, became Rio and finally Utopia.

The leaders also organize debates, shows and often host directors for previews. The leaders of the place play on the notoriety of the Utopia by considering that it is not useful to recall the name. It would even be considered to name the place “Pool”.

Utopia projects 18 films a day, places range from 4 to 6.5 euros. By choice, the Utopia team has no automatic terminal to remove tickets: they favor the human relationship. Similarly, in this perspective, the management team chose to work with no advertising agency. It is through this, among other things, that the cinema stands out from cinematographic structures that offer more media-oriented films such as Mega CGR or Le Gaumont.

The Utopia cinema holds 441 seats. Six projectionists work there. Their means of communication is essentially the Gazette .

In June 2016, the Toulouse Utopia cinema was bought by members of the team and became the American Cosmograph , the first name of the cinema in 1907. The new program shot in 40,000 copies is now called The Fanzine .

Utopia Tournefeuille

Inaugurated in 2003, Utopia Tournefeuille (four rooms in the western suburbs of Toulouse ) is located in a corner surrounded by greenery near the town hall and the post office. It also has a restaurant.


Utopia cinemas have won three times the trophy of the best Art & Essence of France in their category. [ref. necessary]

  • 2001: Trophy of the hall Art and essay awarded to Utopia Toulouse.
  • 2004: French Film Trophies 2004 (operator).

See also


  • Olivier Alexandre, Utopia – In search of an alternative cinema , Coll. Social Logic, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2007.
  • Guillaud Lara, Utopia, utopia as an alternative. Stakes of an independent exploitation circuit , review Archives n ° 57, Jean Vigo institute, Perpignan, cinémathèque of Toulouse, January 1994.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Olivier Alexander Utopia – In search of an alternative cinema , Coll. Social Logic, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2007, p.  15
  2. ↑ Christophe Payet, ”  Buy your movies on USB stick at the cinema  ”  [ archive] , on lesinrocks .com , (accessed November 2016 )
  3. ↑ Lamia Coulibaly, ”  Video Pocket: come to the cinema and leave with a movie on your USB key  ”  [ archive ] , on culturebox.francetvinfo.fr ,(accessed November 2016 )
  4. ↑ “Church History Saint-Siméon” cinemas-utopia.org  [ archive ]
  5. ↑ “In Bordeaux Juppe imprudent with cryptocathos”, Colette Gonère, Libération , December 12, 2002 (read online)  [ archive ]
  6. ↑ Site of the local social forum Gironde  [ archive ]
  7. ↑ ”  Montpellier: life in” Cinema-Scop “employees of Utopia  ”  [ archive ] , MidiLibre.fr (accessed 30 September 2016 )
  8. ↑ History of the Parisian room  [ archive ] , accessed August 30, 2009
  9. ↑ ”  The Latin Quarter Film Library  ”  [ archive ] (accessed June 4, 2014 )
  10. ↑ Association website ASCUt
  11. ↑ ASCUt file on the extension project of the UGC Ciné Cité Cergy-le-Haut
  12. ↑ http://www.archives.mairie-toulouse.fr/index.php?id=341&type=98&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=403&cHash=0e550a2154  [ archive ]
  13. ↑ Toulouse in days / Alquier Pascal. Lonely planet, 2010
  14. ↑ Ficitot, Nicolas, “Utopia”, in class, the dictionary of Toulouse, Loubatières 2004

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