Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in movie mode!

While the spotlight each year is on the Cannes Film Festival, its prestige and its string of stars, we often forget that our region has had an intense love affair with the cinema for over a century. It’s a story that began in La Ciotat with the Lumière brothers, continued in Marseille and Aubagne with Pagnol, and continues to this day in Nice, in the Victorine studios… Its crowning glory, the Cannes International Film Festival.



Shooting locations in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

La Ciotat, birthplace of the 7th Art

In 1891, Antoine Lumière, a rich industrialist from Lyon approaching retirement settled in La Ciotat, having fallen under the charm of the gentle lifestyle of this little seaside town. His two sons, Louis and Auguste Lumière, shared his passion for motion pictures. Starting with the kinetoscope invented by Thomas Edison, which made it possible to see a picture move through a peephole viewer window, Auguste and Louis set to making an apparatus that was both lighter and above all, capable of sending the “motion” picture to a big screen.

The year 1894 saw the crowning of their efforts and, on September 21st 1895, the first film in the history of filmmaking was shown to an audience of inhabitants of La Ciotat invited by Antoine Lumière. A shock, and an absolute triumph! Cinematography was born with “L’entrée en gare du train de La Ciotat” (the train arriving at La Ciotat station). Following the private projection, the film was shown at regular public projections at L’Eden-Théâtre, which is currently considered to be the oldest movie hall in the world.

The Parisians had to wait several weeks more, until 28th December 1895, to watch the projection of “l’entrée en gare”. The date was also retained as the official birth of cinematography.

A child of Aubagne and Marseille, Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) brought prestige to the cinema of the south of France. His love of Provence, its arid hills, hidden springs and the people who lived there, gave birth to a unique style which was both meridional and wonderfully humanistic. His magic was to conquer first France and then the whole world.

Delightful, at times excessively funny and always gentle, a symbol of a whole lifestyle, Pagnol’s cinema was born in 1931 with “Marius”. Talking pictures were only just emerging, but the tone was set. The following year, the filmmaker created his production company in the middle of Marseille, near the Prado, and the studios worked continuously through WW2. After “Marius” came “Fanny”. Brought to the Broadway stage, “Fanny” was a real hit. “César” was the last film in the trilogy in 1937. Meanwhile, Pagnol offered his South of France an exceptional actor: Jules Muraire, known quite simply as Raimu.

Countless filmmakers and actors have followed, and still follow in Marcel Pagnol’s footsteps. His writing, language and his style which was both naive and authentic conveyed the essence of Provence. The essence and perhaps also the essential.

La Victorine, the studios of the century

In 1913, Gaumont set up in Nice, and around 1919, the Studios de la Victorine were created. At the time, there were five of them, spread out between Cannes and Menton. All the filmmakers of the time had the same requirement: the need for space and light. With its unique number of days of sunshine and its landscapes which were already famous the world over, the Department of Les Alpes-Maritimes rapidly inspired the greatest film directors. The Great Depression in 1929 dealt a severe blow to what was a luxury industry, but the studios were modernised. They were to host Marcel Carné (“Les visiteurs du soir” (The Devil’s Envoys), in 1942, René Clément (“Jeux interdits” (Forbidden Games), in 1951, and Alfred Hitchcock (“La main au collet” (To Catch a Thief) in 1954). The 60s saw a different form of cinema emerge; natural scenery was preferred to studios. And then came the consecration of a new genre: the commercial.


The Cannes festival: a plethora of stars

As a world date for the film industry, the Cannesfestival should have been inaugurated on 1st September 1939. But the declaration of war prevented the event from taking place and it was put off until 20th September 1946. That year, the first prizes for acting were awarded to Michèle Morgan and Ray Milland, and the famous Palais des Festivals was subsequently built. Fans and film lovers from all over the world have their eyes fixed on La Croisette and the famous steps have become a myth. It’s currently the most publicized event in the world after the Olympic Games.


Films and series shot

in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
  • Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (Salon-de-Provence)
  • Brice de Nice (Nice)
  • César (Toulon)
  • Crésus (Forcalquier)
  • Emily in Paris (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Apt, Gordes)
  • Entrée du train en gare de la Ciotat
  • Et Dieu créa la Femme (Saint-Tropez)
  • Fanny (Marseille)
  • Fantômas (Cassis)
  • Femme Fatale (Cannes)
  • Hors de Prix (Saint-Tropez)
  • Jean de Florette (Mirabeau)
  • Juliette ou la clef des songes (Entrevaux)
  • La Belle Histoire (Roussillon)
  • La Bonne Année (Cannes)
  • La cité de la peur (Cannes)
  • La femme du Boulanger (Le Castellet)
  • La fille du Puisatier (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence)
  • La Sirène du Mississippi (Aix-en-Provence)
  • La Vérité si je mens 2 (Saint-Tropez)
  • L’année des méduses (Saint-Tropez)
  • Largo Winch 2 (Tallard)
  • L’Arnacoeur (Monaco)
  • Le Bossu (Château Queyras)
  • Le Corniaud (Saint-Raphaël)
  • Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez
  • Le Héros de la famille (Nice)
  • Le Hussard sur le toit (Cucuron, Avignon, Manosque, Briançon)
  • Le mouton à 5 pattes (Vaison-la-Romaine)
  • Le Parfum de la Dame en Noir (Port-Cros)
  • Le Petit Baigneur (La Seyne-sur-Mer)
  • Le Transporteur (Aix-en-Provence)
  • Les fous du stade (Graveson)
  • Les Vacances de Mr Bean (Cavaillon)
  • Les Valseuses (Col du Lautaret)
  • Léo Mattéï, brigade des mineurs (Marseille)
  • L’été meurtrier (Noves)
  • Manon des Sources (Mirabeau, Ansouis, Vaugine)
  • Manon des sources – 1952 (La Treille)
  • Marius (Marseille)
  • Marius et Jeannette (Marseille)
  • Mascarade (Nice, Antibes, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Théoule-sur-mer)
  • Mayrig (Marseille)
  • Parlez-moi de la pluie (Avignon)
  • Sur les chemins noirs (Mercantour, entre autres)
  • Stillwater (Marseille)
  • The French connection (Marseille)
  • Trois places pour le 26 (Marseille)
  • Ugolin (La Treille)
  • Un Prophète (Marignane)
  • Une grande année (Gordes)
  • Walking Dead – spinoff en cours de tournage (Martigues)

We’re sure we’ve missed a few… so don’t hesitate to drop us a line to add to the list!