On Cours du Général Gallieni, one of the main thoroughfares that connect Bordeaux with the suburb of Pessac, the recently-restored faça...

Ciné-Théâtre Girondin: the façade remains the same

On Cours du Général Gallieni, one of the main thoroughfares that connect Bordeaux with the suburb of Pessac, the recently-restored façade of the former Ciné-Théâtre Girondin offers an instant means of rewinding almost 100 years.

The cinema was completed in 1919 and opened in 1920. Located close to the Barrière de Pessac, it was one of a number of cinemas that popped up on the periphery of Bordeaux. Its construction had been commissioned by a local man who had achieved fortune either in the United States or Argentina according to which source you refer to. What is generally agreed though is that the architect's designs were inspired by a structure in Argentina.

The architect was a man from Bordeaux, Hector Loubatié, who had already made a name for himself by designing  the Cinéma Pathé (now Centre Rabelais) in Montpellier. He is also behind a number of other interesting buildings dotted around Bordeaux… but that’s another story, and another article!

Loubatié drafted in another local, the stained glass window specialist Leon Delmas, to deliver the three elaborate stained glass features which are the building’s centrepiece, the designs of which were reportedly inspired by the visuals used in the newsreels produced by Pathé and Fox-Movietone.

They show different views of the Earth, complete with the names of the oceans, tropics, continents and some countries. Each globe is flanked by flowers, stars, surrounded by the flames of the Sun and various intricate patterns… Let’s just say there’s a lot going on. Above that, the name of the venue is a painstakingly-executed gold, green and black mosaic.

At either top corner, rather glum and despondent-looking “mascarons” (sculpted masks) are gazing downwards. Finally, at ground level, a small aperture is a reminder of where tickets used to be sold to cinema-goers.  

The cinema was a success for a number of decades, although glory-year photos are hard to track down (the only significant find is this unusual wartime picture). Patrons would travel from central Bordeaux, Talence, Pessac and beyond to take in silver-screen entertainment, many arriving by bicycle… so much so that the cinema hired a warden who was employed to keep watch over the bikes parked outside the building!

From the 1950s onwards, the Ciné-Théâtre Girondin struggled to compete with city-centre venues and the cinema’s final screening took place on December 31st 1966. Like many moviehouses before it, the place was converted into a supermarket and things remained much that way for the next 40 years, until around 2005-2006, by which time the shop too had run its course.

The plot was purchased by the property giants Investimo, who proceeded to entirely gut the building until all that remained was the ornate façade (as pictured here on the Travosphère blog). Although work faltered on the project which was originally scheduled to be completed in 2008, by 2010 the new-look structure was unveiled: it was now a luxury 13-flat residential complex complete with inner courtyard and underground parking. There are also ground-floor properties designed to be used as shops or businesses but, at the time of writing, they remain vacant and are up for sale.

The interior then is no more, but happily the exterior does look fresher than ever. And the residence has retained the name of the building in its previous incarnation: it remains known as Le Ciné-Théâtre Girondin.

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