Cinema chains are not renowned for their contribution to cinematic diversity. mk2 is one of the few that is, making it the best in the world by a stretch. The only snag is that you have to go to Paris to enjoy it, though that’s hardly a chore either. Founded in 1974 by Marin Karmitz a Romanian-born one-time Maoist, the group has consistently gone against the grain in both its programming and its choice of location for its 10 cinemas in the French capital.

Karmitz has an uncanny knack for sensing urban regeneration in rundown areas. He usually picks neighbourhoods without existing cinemas, such as Bastille for his first one and, more recently, the Canal Ourcq in the 19th arrondissement.

mk2’s main attraction is the range of films it shows, from rep cinema in the mornings to international new releases later in the day. While its mandate is to function as an alternative to Hollywood, it does screen the better studio films, including children’s movies, and always in the original language.

There is more to mk2 than just cinemas though. Karmitz directed a number of well-regarded films himself in the 60s and has since produced the work of some of the world’s finest directors. He has helped Godard, Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Angelopolous and Chabrol, among others, to get their films made. Most recently, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant came out of the mk2 stable. And in a rare instance of sensitive custodianship, the Chaplin family entrusted mk2 with the rights to Chaplin’s films, resulting in their superb DVD release two years ago.

Along with the dozens of other excellent independent cinemas in Paris, mk2 makes the city a moviegoer’s paradise. It has also given the world the first architecturally great cinema of the multiplex age, beside the new Bibliotheque Nationale. If only there could be one in every city.

Originally published by The Guardian.

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