New lease of life for 100-year-old French film studios

The Villa Rex Ingram is the studios’ most emblematic building, with Odile Chapel (manager of the studios)

Nice once hoped to be a ‘French Hollywood’ - and you will have heard of many of the films that were made at its Victorine Studios. The best of those days seemed over but now the studios are set for a ‘renaissance’

A hundred years ago, the dream of a French Hollywood was born on the Riviera at the Victorine Studios.

Today the Nice studios are the oldest in France outside the Paris area and the city council hopes to give them a “renaissance”, setting them up for another century.

It is celebrating the centenary with a year of events around the theme of “The Odyssey of the Cinema”.

The main entrance gates near the Nice airport railway station

This started with a cinema theme for the Nice Carnival.

Sixty old films made there were shown across the city’s cinemas, and there were also seven exhibitions in major museums, an open day, and tie-ins with the city’s book festival (May 31 to June 2) and famous jazz festival on July 16-20 (see cinema2019.nice.fr ).

While it never exactly rivalled the original Hollywood, the creation of the Victorine in the west of the city, near the airport, began a long and successful story of film-making.

With such classics as Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), To Catch a Thief (1955) or And God Created Woman (1956), the studios won a place in film history, first in the silent era and later during World War Two. Filmmakers were attracted there after Paris and the north were occupied.

Many glamorous stars, such as Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly, filmed there in the 1950s to 1970s (see below).

The studios have also had recent successes, such as popular French comedy Brice de Nice (2005) or Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007) and Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight (2014).

How­ever, things had slowed down and it had lost its historic name, rebranded Studios Riviera by the firm Euro Media France, which ran it from 2000. There were even rumours that the city council, which owns the land, would take it back and build flats.

Instead, last year, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi announced the creation of a prestigious Victorine Committee to study how to give a “renaissance” to the studios.

It included major arts figures such as director and producer and Cinémathèque Française President Costa Gavras and former President of the Centre national du cinéma et ...

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