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Luc Besson Strikes out on His Own

Nicole Vulser's article (La Cité du cinéma de Luc Besson prend forme, January 30) in Le Monde describes French director Luc Besson's plan to convert an old electric plant in Saint-Denis (built by EDF in 1933), the sometimes rough suburban town to the north of Paris, into a campus of sound stages and studios. Besson thinks that such a "little Hollywood" could host a number of specialized companies, in order to draw American and other foreign filmmakers to Paris. The construction of the so-called Cité du cinéma was approved last December. Planned building includes nine sound stages (600 to 2,100 square meters, or 6,500 to 13,000 square feet), workshops for sets and costumes, editing studios, offices, and restaurants.

"In France, what is available is spread all over. There are lots of places to shoot that are not really suited to what big productions need," says Geneviève Salinier [who heads the project for Besson's company, Europacorp]. The new tax credit benefits awarded to French companies should, she says, put an end to the exportation of many French films.
Europacorp hopes to open the site in early 2007. Unusually for this kind of corporate project, it will be supported financially by the French government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, to bring some development to troubled Saint-Denis and "to whip French cinema into shape." Europacorp insists that it is still a private enterprise and not a national cinema company, although the article foresees that other studios will likely complain to the European Union that Besson's project violates antinationalization laws.

A companion article (Une centrale électrique reconvertie en bord de Seine, January 30) by Emmanuel de Roux for Le Monde states that the architectural work will likely be awarded to Philippe Robert and Bernard Reichen, specialists at the conversion of industrial architecture, who converted a Menier chocolate factory in Noisiel into an office space for Nestlé France (my translation):
Saint-Denis 2 is arranged around a spectacular nave 220 meters [721.8 feet] long, luminous, airy, completely tiled, with a metallic roof and pink ocher façades in concrete masonry, pierced by high windows. Here is where the five generators were located, of which three remain. This immense hall, the spine of the future Cité du cinéma, is supposed to become a sort of interior street meant to join together the group of buildings, while preserving certain elements of its industrial past (turbines, stairways, conveyor belts).
This page from the city of Saint-Denis has an aerial shot of the proposed location, in Pleyel, and Plaine Commune has some great, if small, images of the buildings themselves, including that long nave mentioned in the article.

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