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After a 23-year hiatus caused by financial troubles, the Eden Theater is set to reopen in southern France
October 8, 201310:49PM ET
The world’s oldest-known movie theater, which screened pioneering films by the Lumiere brothers in 1899, reopens Wednesday after a 23-year break caused by financial troubles.
The Eden theater, located in the sleepy southern French town of La Ciotat, near Marseilles, has been given a new coat of paint and new tiles. Oak floors have replaced dusty carpet, and its old squeaky chairs have been swapped out with plush velvet seats.
Several well-known French actors and filmmakers are expected to attend the theater’s reopening, including Roman Polanski.
While it will no doubt be a dazzling affair, the party probably won’t be as world-changing as Eden's debut.
It was at Eden that the Lumiere brothers, Auguste and Louis, screened their first moving pictures to 250 dazzled spectators on March 21, 1899. That makes La Ciotat’s residents past some of the first people in the entire world to have seen motion pictures.
The theater was then owned by Raoul Gallaud, a friend of the brothers' father Antoine Lumiere – a rich industrialist.
Over the decades, Eden became famous for both cinema and theater, and several French film stars performed there in the early days of their careers.
But the theater took a financial dive in the 1980s after the owner was killed in an attempted robbery.
After that, the building opened only for one week every year to host a festival showcasing the first-ever French-language movies, until its closure in 1995.
But supporters of the old, historic monument never gave up their fight to see it reopened.
In 2013, the naming of Marseille as a European Capital of Culture gave local authorities cause to finally renovate the theater at a cost of $8.1 million.
While Eden will run as a privately operated movie theater, visitors will be able to wander through a permanent exhibition showcasing the history of cinema.
Outside, the facade will be adorned with a laser installation that at night will depict a train, to mark the 50-second-long 1895 film “A train arriving at La Ciotat station” by the Lumiere brothers.