A brand new green cinema at Pont-Sainte-Marie
by Elisabetta Brunella
The eco-sustainable theatre that has just come into being in Pont-Sainte-Marie, a little town just outside Troyes, around 160 kilometres south east of Paris, is called Utopia. Despite its name, this little, four-screen site, seating a total of 296 spectators, demonstrates that it is possible to build a cinema - a structure that because of its very nature consumes a good deal of electricity - that is self-sufficient in terms of energy consumption and reduces its carbon dioxide emissions to zero.
To attain this objective, special planning was needed. Anne Faucon, daughter of the independent Utopia circuit’s founder, a chain present in another six French locations explains: “Only the foundations are made of concrete. The rest of the structure is made of wood, whilst the insulation mainly depends on the use of compressed straw. On the roof dozens of solar panels have been installed, whilst heating is guaranteed by a biomass boiler. The Utopia cinemas’ intention has always been to create a hospitable environment and a lot of human warmth but this time we want to do much more than that!"
At Pont-Sainte-Marie, audiences are welcomed by a foyer with flowery armchairs around a real fireplace, and after the screening are invited to roast chestnuts in the embers instead of eating popcorn.
But this is not all there is to its environmental awareness: the Utopia is destined to go down in history for its composting toilets, which convert human waste into fertilizers. Completely in line with the spirit of the eco-district of Moulinet, a district of the town on the banks of the Seine where the municipality, which pioneered the introduction of waste collection by horse-drawn vehicles, licensed the use of ground for the building of the cinema at particularly favourable conditions.
Thanks also to support from a committee of citizens who love quality cinema just as much as ecology, Anne Faucon has managed to show that it is possible to create a complex different from traditional ones. The project cost 2.6 million euros and took a long time coming, but has succeeded in winning European support, which has earned it financing to the sum of 300,000 euros, to which the district council added another 200,000, 100,000 came from the CNC and 100,000 were collected by crowdfunding, in which 608 donators took part.
Its connection to the territory and the local communities will also take a practical form in its programming and in the various accompanying activities. To start with, the ticket price, too, is in line with the idea of sustainability: 7 euros, dropping to 5 when buying ten at once, and to 3.50 for schools. In addition, for Christmas a social initiative is already on the cards: an evening for people who live alone. The choice of titles will aim to satisfy an audience that likes independent and arthouse films and versions in the original language, which up to now have been hard to find in the only site in the area, of a more commercial nature. Amongst the screenings planned for January, a mini-showcase devoted to Francesco Rosi stands out, including titles such as “Cadaveri eccellenti”/“Illustrious Corpses”, “Le mani sulla città”/“Hands Over the City” and “Salvatore Giuliano”. There will be no lack of titles for schools, combining environmental education with cultural formation through the language of film.