Cannes is known for its love of film. It isn’t a big place so it punches above its weight in terms of cinemas – for a population of just above 70,000 people, it has the main Palais, with 18 rooms, two cinemas for blockbusters and arthouse, and several smaller community spaces and theatres. Here’s our guide to the ones worth mentioning – and not all of them require evening wear and a guestlist to get in.
This is the granddaddy of cinemas in Cannes because it’s where all the major films are screened during the Cannes Film Festival in May. The first Palais des Festivals was built on the Croisette in 1949 but it was superseded by this one, on the water, which is much bigger and can cope with the crazy foot traffic that come during the major movie premieres. It’s also home to the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It’s at the top of the famous Croisette and has a staggering 18 auditoriums, two of which are the most famous – the Debussy Theatre and the Lumière Theatre.
Watch films in their original language at Les Arcades
The Arcades cinema is incredibly central and not far from the famous Croisette, Cannes’ most well-known street. It’s not a huge cinema, with three screens, which can seat 465 people. As far as practical information goes, it is accessible to people with disabilities and it has air conditioning, which is vital in the summer months. It shows a mix of arthouse and big-budget Hollywood movies and is also the place to go in Cannes to find movies in their original language (look out for the VO signs, which mean ‘versionoriginale‘ – these films will have subtitles rather than be dubbed).
The Cinéma Olympia is off the famous shopping street rue d’Antibes in Cannes and is where you’ll find all the latest films, French and overseas, although probably not in their original version (they will be in French or dubbed). It is often used as a place to host new films (and, like the other cinemas, it is used during the Cannes Film Festival); they even rent screens out to up-and-coming directors to show fledgling movies. Along with Les Arcades, it is one of the main cinemas in town.
Throughout the Cannes Film Festival (in May each year), one of the best places to watch movies is on the beach, and for free. During the Film Festival, you can queue up for a ticket for a comfy chair but if you’re too late, you can still find a spot on the sand with a blanket and a bottle of wine. The only consideration is that the movies aren’t always in English, so take care in choosing your night. It takes place on Mace beach, opposite the Hotel Majestic, next to the Palais. This is one way of experiencing all the charm of the film festival without getting dressed up.
Located on the Rue Pasteur just off the Promenade de la Croisette, the Espace Miramar evokes the enthusiasm for cinematic arts with which Cannes is often associated. Consisting of a large auditorium with seating for up to 400 people, a spacious lobby and a separate showroom, the Espace Miramar gives visitors access to screenings, performances, and temporary exhibitions. Situated on the ground floor of a historic building, formerly the Palais Miramar Hotel (built in 1929), the exhibitions featured in this cultural space take place six times a year and are primarily dedicated to the concept of the image, combining contemporary photography and other manifestations of the visual arts.
Outside of the numerous theatre screens found at the Palais (for events), and the mainstream cinemas of Les Arcades and the Olympia, is the little Alexander III Theatre. It joins in the festivities during Cannes Film Festival, when it often shows free films, for which you don’t need a ticket (although they might not be in English). It works in partnership with two other theatres in the region, La Licorne (in the nearby neighbourhood of La Bocca) and the community space Miramar (on the Croisette).
You’ll find the Licorne theatre in the neighbourhood of La Bocca, a residential area to the west of the historic fishing village of Le Suquet and the famous shopping streets and restaurants of the rue d’Antibes and the Croisette. For the over 60s, you can get a Cannes Bel Age card, which costs €12 and gives you access to heavily reduced prices to see movies at the Théâtre de la Licorne, Espace Miramar and Théâtre Alexander III throughout the winter (on Tuesdays, Mondays and Thursdays, respectively).