Capitole Cinematheque Switzerland

Lausanne, Vaud | C.1928

Photo Credit: Dominik Gehl

Unlike many modern megaplexes that tower above sidewalks, this historic movie house blossoms horizontally hiding the fact that it’s the largest single-screen cinema in the country. Intriguing audiences since 1928, the sleek-looking Capitole has been catering to generations of filmgoers in Lausanne—including those curious about life in galaxies far away.

The creation of famous local Swiss architect Charles Thévenaz, the structure was designed to push outwardly and lay low in order to maintain the view of the grand Hôtel de la Paix and its promenade across the Avenue du Théâtre. Thus, while appearing small from the street, the movie theater boasts a massive hall holding 869 seats. A renovation in the 1950s saw the iconic cursive “Capitole” neon installed, along with a plush interior and even a glass chandelier from Murano, Italy.

In 1983, Lausanne and its minimalist theater were overcome by the power of extraterrestrial activity. Upon the release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., a record-breaking 84,000 audience members enjoyed the film over a 14-week period. One can only imagine how much popcorn was consumed.

In a nod to its landmark status, the City of Lausanne purchased the Capitole in 2010 in order to preserve the post-modern palace. Handing it over to the Cinémathèque Suisse, an organization dedicated to film and cinematography, the city ensured the theater’s safekeeping for years to come. In 2019, construction began on renovating the current spaces as well as creating an additional small-screen theater under the main hall. Planning to open in 2023, we are awaiting confirmation if E.T. will kick off another 14 week run 🍿

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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