Charles Cohen, one of the leading distributors of French movies in the United States, is set to play a bigger role in Gaul’s film landscape.
A real estate tycoon turned movie mogul, Cohen just acquired La Pagode, a Japanese-styled iconic theater in Paris considered to be architectural gem dating back to 1896.
La Pagode marks Cohen’s first international theater acquisition and underscores his ambition to diversify and expand the footprint of his company, Cohen Media Group, beyond U.S. distribution activities.
Since acquiring and renovating the Quad in Greenwich Village, New York’s first multi-screen theater in New York, Cohen has been diving deeper into the exhibition business, purchasing the Larchmont Playhouse in Westchester County a few months ago, and the Carefree Theatre in West Palm Beach. Cohen also owns and presides over the Silver Screen Theatre inside the Pacific Design Center in L.A., although this venue is dedicated to non-commercial screenings.
Acquired from Élisabeth Dauchy and Jérôme Seydoux, the owner of French film powerhouse Pathé, La Pagode is considered a historical monument and a beloved jewel of the French capital. Back in the 1930’s, La Pagode was well-known for screening avant-garde films, and in the 1960’s, it played movies from New Wave auteurs such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
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Although La Pagode is in dire need of renovation, it remains an ideal backdrop for the type of high-end boutique theater which Cohen is looking to develop. Nestled in the chic 7th arrondissement, the two-screen venue features a Japanese garden and tea room. Renovations will take roughly three years, said Cohen.
At La Pagode, Cohen looks to replicate what he has achieved at the Quad, which has been attracting moviegoers with luxury seating, a beer and wine bar, and a strong programming of prestige arthouse and repertory films.
Cohen said the idea behind La Pagode was not to show his company’s films only. “We want to have a diverse, rich programming mixing some American films, independent films and repertory movies,” he noted.
“We want to create an enjoyable environment, develop the best screens, with a great sound system and a unique ambiance. We want give people a reason to go out and see films, experience new things,” said Cohen.
While streaming services are increasingly perceived as a threat to exhibitors across Europe, Cohen said arthouse exhibition can still be a fairly lucrative business, especially in France, which “boasts one of Europe’s healthiest theatrical market; a deep-entranched tradition of moviegoing.”
Classic films will be well showcased at Cohen’s boutique theaters across the U.S. and in France at La Pagode. Cohen, who owns a library of more than 500 features and 200 shorts, launched Cohen Film Classics, a new series dedicated to repertory movies which he hosts and curates for KCET in Los Angeles and LinkTV nationwide. Cohen’s classic films collection include films by Jacques Rivette, W. C. Fields, Buster Keaton and James Ivory.
Cohen, who won an foreign-language Oscar last year with Asghar Farhadi’s”The Salesman” which he had co-acquired with Amazon at Cannes, currently has two movies in the pipeline for Oscar nominations, including Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” which represents Lebanon in the foreign-language Oscar race. Cohen co-produced the film and has North American distribution rights. So far, Cohen Media Group has scored six Oscar nominations since launching its distribution division in 2010.