Cinemacity – A mobile app to discover Paris through its movies

Cinemacity is the latest smart phone application from the team at ARTE Web in a coproduction with transmedia studio Small Bang.

An initiative of Michel Reilhac (Director of ARTE Cinéma at the time and now an independent transmedia author), Cinemacity allows users to take a unique stroll through one city’s cinematographic heritage—Paris in this instance—in a project developed using an innovative economic model.


The idea behind Cinemacity is to provide the public with a geographic context for their favourite films: hundreds of movie scenes have been geolocated on the map of Paris and can be viewed with the application at the very spot where they were shot. Famous excerpts from InceptionThe Red Balloon and even the animated feature Ratatouille are now only a click away.

Cinemacity not only casts Paris in a new light by displaying scenes from classic movies, it also gives film aficionados a whole new way to appreciate the seventh art by physically visiting the very sites where scenes were shot (it would take nearly 25 hours to tour all of the sites referenced in the application).

The team has organized the scenes into themed walking tours with suggestive titles such as “Fasten your seatbelts!”, “Light Up and Smoke Out” and “Occupied Paris, Liberated Paris.” Each tour includes about five to eight scenes from different movies and takes the user on a stroll through a slice of film history in one particular district.

Finally, the application helps tourists overcome any problem in establishing an Internet phone connection away from home by allowing them to download their itinerary in advance (e.g., through the WiFi connection at their hotel) for later consultation offline at their convenience.

Launched in early July, the Cinemacity versions for iPhone and Android currently include more than 400 geolocated movie scenes with plans to further expand the catalogue on a regular basis.

Cinemacity Map - Source: Screenshot from

Source: Screenshot from

The Aide aux projets nouveaux médias program of Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animé (CNC) contributed €120,000 to the project (one third for development and two thirds for production), funding that specifically targeted the production of original content for the platform.

“The invaluable support of CNC has allowed us to produce original content, in the form of walking tours comprising five episodes lasting three minutes apiece. Each tour is the brainchild of an up-and-coming director telling a story about a district in Paris,” explains Benjamin Lelong, director of digital strategy and communication for Small Bang.

In addition to emphasizing the heritage value of movies, Cinemacity serves as a creative laboratory designed to “explore new cinematographic narrative forms in a given city.” One «fiction walking tour» entitled Chat (directed by Ilan Cohen) has already been completed and three others will be available by year’s end in response to invitations sent out to directors in the Paris region.


ARTE always intended for the application to be offered free of charge. Designed to be more than simply a game or tourist guide,Cinemacity provides a public service by facilitating access to the cinematographic and urban heritage of Paris.

For this reason, the municipal government was an obvious partner for the project, explains Pierre Cattan, founder of studio Small Bang, who describes himself as Cinemacity’s “showrunner”. “Three associates have been involved in the project: Bruno Julliard (culture), Jean-Louis Missika (innovation), and Jean-Bernard Bros (tourism). The City of Paris provided financial support for Cinemacity through a grant from the Department of Culture.”

The fruit of this collaboration can be seen in the evolution of the project’s thematic walking tours, notes Benjamin Lelong: “We have developed content that parallels the city’s wide-ranging program of free cultural initiatives, such as Paris Plagesaccess to areas along the banks of the Seine and Nuit Blanche (an event held in October). This programming is continually evolving, and the support of the Mayor’s office provides invaluable assistance in encouraging users to include Cinemacity in their activities.”


Beyond raising capital in a relatively traditional manner for this type of project (broadcaster + CNC + local community), the unique challenge of Cinemacity lay with the considerable number of rights that had to be negotiated: the overall content of the application depends on obtaining authorization to display scenes from the movies.

Rather than negotiate the rights for each film separately (a prohibitively expensive proposition and a nightmare for the producers!), the team chose to develop partnerships with VOD platforms. The global agreements negotiated cover an entire catalogue instead of one scene at a time. In exchange, each scene is linked back to the partner’s platform where the entire movie can be viewed.

At the current time, the Univers ciné and France TV PluzzVAD platforms have joined with ARTE VOD to provide excerpts from more than a hundred films in all. Pierre Cattan sees this innovative strategy as perfectly in line with the project’s mission: “Cinemacity was developed with and for the world of cinema, to connect mobile apps with innovations in VOD and AVOD services. We are in discussion with new partners and rights holders to find better ways of encouraging users to view a movie through VOD after experiencing the very site where it was shot free of charge through Cinemacity.


Source: Promotional image from Cinemacity

Source: Promotional image from Cinemacity

Although the Cinemacity concept depends on local content, the application is in no way limited to Paris. In fact, the project has the potential to be developed for any major city with a strong film heritage.

Following presentations of the project at the SXSW Festival in Austin and the most recent Cannes Film Festival, several cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Berlin have expressed interest in seeing versions developed based on their unique heritage. “International development is definitely on the radar, but it will take several months to fulfill the technical requirements for new locations. The idea is to develop the technology into a format where all that is needed to complete a new version is editorial decisions (by the front and back offices), a program of walking tours, community management and copyright clearance for the movie scenes,” explains Pierre Cattan. International sales could provide a very interesting new revenue stream for this type of application and one with considerable potential.

Meanwhile, the team is continuing to develop the Paris version by adding walking tours and new features such as push notifications when a user approaches the site of a scene that has not been viewed, the inclusion of a creative laboratory and, finally, an extension of the application to the suburbs of Paris, which have a rich film tradition.

Cinemacity is a living project that is growing organically in response to new opportunities and emerging partnership possibilities,” concludes Pierre Cattan.

Oriane Hurard
Oriane Hurard is a producer with Les Produits Frais as well as a festival programmer for new storytelling formats (transmedia, webseries, VR) and a new media and community management instructor.
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