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In an ground-breaking move on the part of a public-funded institution, Lyon’s Institut Lumière, headed by Thierry Fremaux and president Bertrand Tavernier, is driving into private-sector exhibition, acquiring two celebrating center-city art-plexes, the CNP Terreaux and CNP Bellecour, in central Lyon.

The cinema theater buy-up was put through via a new company, the Cinémas Lumière, financed a mix of bank finance, put up by the Crédit Cooperatif and Natixis Coficine, and private equity from an investors list which has still to be completed.

The CNP purchase follows the Institut Lumière’s planned reopening of Lyon’s Fourmi Cinema, set for first-half 2015.

The CNP cinemas, whose owner Galeshka Moravioff, had battled to find an owner who would keep them as theaters, are due to re-open, post-renovation, after the Xmas recess of 2015/16. Both the CBPs and the Fourmi will retain their arthouse identity, the Institut Lumiére said in a statement Thursday.

More details about the Institut Lumière’s exhibition drive will be announced in due time, the Institut said. Part of its thrust seems clear. For six years now, the Institut Lumiére has made a wild success in the Grand Lyon region of its October Lumière Festival, an unique audience-skewed week of just restorations and re-issues of movie classics, plus cinema-themed docus, attracting Lumière Prize guests such as Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and this year Pedro Almodóvar.

Doing so, Tavernier, whose knowledge of cinema astonished Faye Dunaway at the Lumière Festival, and Fremaux, a natural on-stage performer, and the Institut Lumière as a whole, have shown a flair at building audiences for supposedly non-commercial flair.

As public budgets fall under increasingly pressure in France, the Institut Lumière’s exhibition drive could well serve as a source of alternative finance – and of a larger freedoms as well.