Martin Scorsese Gets Behind Rescue Plan For La Clef Cinema In Paris As Activists Announce Breakthrough

Martin Scorsese has re-voiced his support for Paris’s La Clef community cinema, following news that activists fighting to save the venue have secured the right to buy the site.

The battle to keep the 50-year-old cinema up and running has been supported by a raft of local cineastes, such as Céline Sciamma, Mathieu Amalric, Léos Carax and Agnès Jaoui, and also captured the attention of filmmakers and cinephiles worldwide.

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“La Clef must remain a cinema,” wrote Scorsese in an open letter posted on the site of France’s Libération newspaper.

“Why should we be moved by the disappearance of one more cinema? Because it matters,” he continued.

“Every room counts; each room bears the traces of all the people who have gathered there to watch a silent film by Lubitsch, a classic by Souleymane Cissé, or the latest film by Paul Thomas Anderson or Alice Rohrwacher, among countless other films and retrospectives.

“Think of all those film lovers who met under the halo of a projector. And the story of La Clef must be preserved all the more preciously because it has been brought to life by people who have come together for the love of cinema and the freedom that comes with it.”

Scorsese’s open letter comes on the eve of his upcoming trip to France for the world premiere of Killers Of The Flower Moon at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The future of La Clef has been in doubt since 2015 due to plans to sell off the building in which it is housed by the Caisse d’Epargne banking group.

Billed as the French capital’s sole surviving community cinema, the theatre is situated in Paris’s Left Bank fifth arrondissement, once associated with student activism and intellectual and political ferment.

The Caisse d’Epargne banking group shut down the cinema in 2018 but activists, operating under the banner of La Clef Revival Collective, reoccupied the building in September 2019.

A small band of die-hard cinephile supporters lived in the theatre round the clock, to prevent it from being repossessed.

They kept its activities going on a voluntary basis while lobbying the Caisse d’Epargne to allow them to acquire the building at a favorable price.

Their efforts – which carried on throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – came to symbolize the fight to keep cinema-going alive as well as preserve public and cultural spaces in the face of developers on the hunt for prime city sites.

Following a prolonged legal procedure by the Caisse d’Epargne, the group were expelled from the building on March 1, 2022.

La Clef Revival Collective did not give up and continued to raise funds and lobby the Caisse d’Epargne to sell them the site.

These efforts paid off and the group announced at a press conference in Paris on Wednesday that a deal had finally been done and it had signed the first documents setting the acquisition in motion.

The collective needs to gather the asking price of $3.2 million by October 2023. It said it had ready raised 80% of the total sum and plans to collect the outstanding $662,000 via a crowdfunding campaign.

“I fully and strongly support the collective effort to buy the building in order to keep the cinema running,” said Scorsese in his letter.

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