American real-estate magnate and French film lover Charles Cohen recently purchased La Pagode, a 1895 Parisian art house that closed in 2015. Cohen, owner and CEO of Cohen Brothers Realty, has merged his business acumen with his passion for cinema by distributing French films in the United States and restoring historic theaters.
In 2010, Cohen started a film distribution company, Cohen Media Group, which, after promoting more than 30 French titles, has become one of the largest distributors of French films in the country. This year, he has already renovated and reopened Quad Cinema, New York’s first multi-screen cineplex built in Geenwich Village in 1972, and begun work on 84-year old Larchmont Playhouse in Westchester County and a six-screen theater on the site of Palm Beach, Florida’s old Carefree Theater.
Cohen’s latest buy, La Pagode, is a Parisian relic in the city’s 7th arrondissement. The site was built as a replica of a Japanese pagoda and garden for Françoise-Emile Morin, owner of department store Le Bon Marché, another Parisian giant. Meant as a gift for his wife, the building was repurposed for grand parties when she took the building as her dowry and left him for another man shortly after.
The building opened to the public as a movie theater in the 1930s and has been a center of the avant-garde cinema since, notably promoting the New Wave cinematic movement that swept Paris in the 1960s. The theater shut its doors in 2015, after renovations were stalled in the midst of a dispute between owner and tenant. According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Cohen will continue with restorations where they left off, saving yet another piece of cinematic history from deterioration.