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France’s smallest cinema, with just 50 seats, closes its doors

The cinema operated for almost 25 years

A screenshot view of the single-screen cinema

The single-screen cinema was housed in an old farm building, and decorated with vintage film posters Pic: Facebook / Cinémons 11x20+14 / Screenshot

France’s smallest cinema, which had just 50 seats and was located in a small village in Île-de-France, has been forced to close its doors due to a lack of funds.

The cinema, called ‘11x20+14’, had been housed in an old farm building in the 400-inhabitant village of Mons-en-Montois (Seine-et-Marne) for almost a quarter of a century. 

Local film critic Emmanuel Raspiengeas confirmed the news on X (formerly Twitter) over the weekend of October 7-8. He said: “Sad confirmation this weekend…of the closure of the smallest cinema…hidden for years in this old farm building.”

The cinema first opened almost 25 years ago by former France TV director, Michel Le Clerc, who is now aged 93, after he retired. Each week, the cinema screened five or six films. 

The farmhouse itself has a long history; 234 people are said to have been massacred there by the English during the Hundred Years' War. This is where the cinema gets its name, as 11x20+14 (11 multiplied by 20, plus 14) = 234. 

“I was told it would never work,” said Mr Le Clerc, who then ran it for almost 25 years.

Projections and the pandemic

However, the cinema began to run into problems in 2017. Mr Le Clerc could no longer afford to pay his projectionist, Benoit - another film lover - and pay for the much-needed renovation of the old stained glass windows in another part of the farmhouse. He worked on the windows himself between screenings.

Benoit initially agreed to continue working on a voluntary basis, but the subsequent Covid pandemic reduced cinemagoers - and takings - to zero.

Despite managing to raise €13,000 via an online crowdfunding attempt, the cost of running the cinema was still too much, and Mr Le Clerc made the decision to close.

Arthouse on the up

Despite the cinema’s closure, elsewhere in France, quirky arthouse cinema appears to be experiencing a boom. Admissions are up 40% compared to last year at independent cinemas that show lesser-seen, less-mainstream films in comparison to blockbusters at larger chain multiplexes, reports FranceInfo

However, very small ‘single screen’ cinemas are largely struggling. Figures from the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animé (CNC), reported that five closed last year.

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