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Closure of a 70mm theatre in Lyon, France
Le Comoedia in Lyon: From "South Pacific" to "Return of the King"

The 70mm Newsletter
Text and pictures by: Jean Noel Durand BouratDate: January 28, 2004
The Comoedia was the 1st and one of the very few theatre to have accommodated Todd-AO in Lyon France. over the years 5 new auditoria were added but the original one kept its size and floor-to-ceiling all-to-wall 100 sq meter screen and one of its DP70s until closure on the 30th December 2003. As a 70mm buff having attended the 1st Todd-AO performance I was present at the last show and wrote a short article.

Everyone in Lyon remembers the amazing day when they first discovered giant screen projection in the miracle of 70 mm and the glory of stereophonic sound, that was in the early sixties, the theatre was the Comoedia.

Razed to the ground by an American bomb in 1944 the theatre was rebuilt to a modern design in 1949 paving the way for an easy conversion to Todd-A.O. one decade later. The owner, Monsieur Remi Lapouble, had made the right choice; South Pacific presented in 6 track magnetic sound with the 70 mm wide screen process on a gigantic floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall screen did manage to lure the film buffs away from the box of their living room into the upgraded auditorium. The local cinema had instantly become an international-class venue where even the less popular of the 70 mm films would pack the theatre. 

In those days the popularity of a film was rated according to the number of weeks they ran, at the Comoedia the standard was changed to months. The mightiest of them all, Ben Hur, filled the giant screen and the auditorium as never before for fourteen months, let alone the re-runs.

When in the 70s the taste of the pubic shifted from “wide screen spectaculars” to “art-house movies” and the movie palaces were chopped into several shoe-box shaped theatres with screens no bigger than postages stamps, the Comoedia was provided with 2 smaller auditoria but the original one retained its size and giant screen ready for the return of high adventure and 70 mm blow-ups.

In the 80s the Comoedia is the one and only cinema outside Paris to accommodate a CP 200 processor for 6 track magnetic Dolby stereo sound. A new generation discovers 70 mm with First Blood Part 2 and 2010 Odyssey 2 . The venue becomes so popular that 3 new auditoria are born from scratch, their curved screen rival in size with the original theatre and stadium seating is introduced. No other cinema in town can match the 6 screen Comoedia in terms of screen size and sound quality.

The dawn of the new millennium means hard time for the Comoedia with the emergence of purpose-built state of the art multiple screen theatres, they offer stadium seating, giant curved screens and crystal clear digital sound as a standard feature in all auditoria. The choice of films and performance times is wider and they attract more than one million spectators a year. Under new management the Comoedia strikes back by concentrating on English language versions and yet attendances reach an all time low and the poor conditions of the seats and carpeting add a sense of doom to the old movie temple.

To the great dismay of the Lyonnais the last performances are held on the 30th of December 2003. Spectators of all generations pack the main auditorium to bid farewell to the theatre they had so much loved and somehow betrayed. They are ashamed of the shabby walls and ruined seats but the giant screen is still there in pristine condition. As soon as the lights dim the magic is back, thanks to advances in film and projection technology the 35 mm anamorphic pictures match the size and clarity of Todd AO but Peter Jackson' Return of the King closes with THE END.
Further in 70mm reading:

70mm in Lyon, France

The Palais Des Congres, Lyon, France

70mm Cinema and Film in France


The Auditoria

Press image for an enlargement. Image by Jean Noel Durand Bourat

Comoedia 1 (650 seats) had a steep balcony; a 100 sq meter Todd-AO screen. Variable screen masking and a grand drape were provided but they had been disused over the last few years. The walls were decorated in patchwork motives of warm colours.

Comoedia 2 had a flat floor and the curved screen was a little undersized. Decorative motives and seats were red.

Comoedia 3 (100 seats), 4 (300 seats), et 5 (200 seats), were state of the art purpose built auditoria with stadium seating and giant wall to wall curved screens. The walls were grey and the seats blue. Comoedia 4 had 70mm capability and the seats were crimson red; matching the grand drape curtain.

Comoedia 6 (100 ), was similar to Comoedia 3 but the screen was flat and the sound mono.

Projection equipment ranged from Victorias with Dolby SR to DP 70s fitted with platters and CP 200+DTS processors in Comoedia 1.

Comoedia - 13, avenue Berthelot - 69007 Lyon

Films shown at the Comoedia in 70mm

Unless otherwise stated, these films were not blown up from 35mm negatives and were presented at the Comoedia in the 2.22 aspect ratio with 6-track magnetic sound

The Miracle of Todd-AO.
South Pacific
Can Can
The Sound of Music
My Fair Lady
Hello, Dolly!
West Side Story
That’s Entertainment (BLOW-UP / 1,85)
Doctor Dolittle
Porgy and Bess
Cheyenne Autumn
Silverado (BLOW-UP / CP200)
The Alamo
Where Eagles Dare (BLOW-UP)
Rambo First Blood Part 2 (BLOW-UP / CP200)
The Longest day (BLOW-UP)
Tora Tora Tora (BLOW-UP)
2001: A Space Odyssey
2010 Odyssey 2 (BLOW-UP / CP200)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (BLOW-UP)
Aliens (BLOW-UP / CP200 / 1,85)
Batman (BLOW-UP / CP200 / 1,85)
E.T. (BLOW-UP / CP200 / 1,85)
The Abyss (BLOW-UP / CP200)
Lord Jim
Mutinees of the Bounty
Out of Africa (BLOW-UP / CP200 /1,85)
Play Time (1,85 / 5 track magnetic sound)
King of Kings
Ben Hur
El Cid
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Gone with the Wind (BLOW-UP)
Ryan’s Daughter
Doctor Zhivago (BLOW-UP)
Lawrence of Arabia
The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Cardinal (BLOW-UP)
The Shoes of the Fisherman (BLOW-UP)


The Comoedia Never Dies

Hi there, this is good news The Comoedia in Lyon France will re-open in December 2005 with superior quality state of the art sound and projection systems and under new management? Nothing has been said yet about 70mm. I enclose a photograph of the stunning wall to wall floor to ceiling Todd-AO screen that could complete my last year article

Yours Jean Noel, 12 Jan 2005

25 Nov 2005:

I just have found an article in a free newspaper about COMOEDIA of Lyon. A little abstract:

It is almost sure: the doors of Comoedia should reopen at the beginning of May, just before the Cannes Festival! The "kitsch" wallpapers and patchworks of the Seventies will disappear to leave room to a modern cinema: 6 screens and 1000 seats. Nothing about booths equipment. I believe it will not be re-equipped with 70mm projectors. A cafe, a wine bar and an exposition room will be created. The new owner, Marc Bony, is also a French film producer ("Kirikou"). He wants to make a place of animation with a very varied programming. He says: "We want the Comoedia to be a film prescriber" ... Wait and see!!!

Greetings Gilbert Travin

Comoedia reopening 2006

A nice and good news: the newspaper "Le Progrès" has announced yesterday Comoedia reopening for november 17, 2006. Here are the new specifications of the multiplex (6 screens): Great Theatre, 300 seats with 14m wide screen. Other theatres: 230, 170 and 120 seats "Little" theatres: 2 x 80 seats. Two "cafés" are also provided for drinking and eating. Drink and food are not allowed in the theatres. No advertising films before films (only trailers). 35mm equipment installed by ADDE.

The story of the Comoedia in Lyon:

1914: Jules Melchior created "The Berthelot" (13, Ave Berthelot)
1924: Emile Peyre bought the theatre and called it "Comoedia". Remi Lapouble married Peyre's daughter.
1928: Remi Lapouble was manager
1944: the cinema was destroyed by the bombardments
1949: the theater was re-builded by Georges Peynet (architect)
8 december 1954: CinemaScope was inaugurated with "The Robe" (this date is symbolic in Lyon because it matches with "la fête des lumières" (the
festival of the lights : all the town is illuminated)
19 october 1960: first performance of "South Pacific" in Todd AO on the
14m wide screen (DP70 projectors of course !!!)
1974: two screens were added and the great theater was renovated (Xenon lamphouses were installed in place of Cinemeccanica carbon arc lamphouses)
1979: Dolby Stereo with "Apocalypse now"
1987: six screens
1993: UGC bought the Comoedia
30 december 2003: the "provisional" end !!!
17 november 2006: Comoedia is finally reopened (The new owners are Marc Bonny and Marc Guidoni)

Greetings Gilbert Travin, 24.11.2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 12:17 AM

I am pleased to confirm that nearly 3 years after its closure The Comoedia (in Lyon France) reopened on the 15th of November as an art house movie theatre. The main auditorium retains its stunning wall to wall Todd-AO screen although no 70mm equipment has been installed. Any way it is good new considering that three years ago the theatre was to become a supermarket.

Regards from Jean Noel Durand Bourat
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Updated 01-12-23