We all know of the two Pathé cinemas in Lausanne for larger, commercial films. But our city also offers several other options a bit off the beaten path for those looking for more independent, political, or experimental films, both new and classic. Here's our look into the cinema scene here in Lausanne.
The Cinématheque Suisse (National Film Archive) has a collection of over 70,000 films that they (usually) show in two locations in Lausanne – the Casino de Montbenon and the historic Capitole theatre (currently closed for renovation until 2024). There are a few reasons you’ll want to check the schedule every month. They offer access to cult classics, forgotten treasures in global cinema, as well as organizing special events and premier screenings. Films are organized by retrospectives around different themes, directors, or actors. The Cinématheque also occasionally proposes films for kids and the whole family. Tickets are only 10 CHF for regular viewings and 12 CHF for special events (cheaper if you are a student). Many films are shown in the original language (Version Originale or V.O.), which means tons of English-language films. The Cinématheque also hosts or supports several film festivals (see below).
Originally opened in 1959, Lausanne’s alternative theatre par excellence, Cinéma Bellevaux is one of the last remaining “art et essai”, or arthouse, cinemas, showing interesting current films from around the world. It also hosts regular sound performances and other special events. All films are shown in their original language with French subtitles. Full-price tickets are 16 CHF, or 12 CHF if you’re a member of its association. They also have a 200 CHF annual membership offering unlimited access.
The City Club Pully gives off local dive movie theatre vibes. And for that, we love it. Tickets are cheap; beer is cheap; but it features some of the most artistic and interesting films you’ll find in town. Wished you could see some of the titles featured at Cannes last year? This is your place. They also often hold special events around certain films, including inviting directors or actors of the projected films and roundtables on certain themes (William Defoe showed up last year!) Although technically in Pully, it’s VERY easy to access from the #9 bus stop Montiller (12 minute ride from St. François). Tickets are 15 CHF for adults, 12 CHF for students and 10 CHF for children.
Zinema is a cultural gem hidden behind Chauderon. It’s tiny, tiny, tiny (there are only 2 projection rooms with 15 and 11 seats each. With a bit of luck, you can get a private viewing!). It shows current documentaries and independent flicks, selected by Zinema’s Director. It has a delightfully arty ambiance and an appropriately complicated website. Tickets are 16 CHF for non-members, and 10 CHF for members (annual membership costs 60 CHF, and you get a free drink at each film). Also included in the price is a sense of artistic superiority hard to find elsewhere in Lausanne. All films are shown in their original language with French subtitles.
The Cinema Oblò is the sort of place you feel like the cops might storm at any minute and arrest you for just being there. Which is AWESOME. This is Lausanne’s underground cinema – it’s literally housed in an old depot just off Chauderon on Avenue de France. Films are independent, non-commercial, and often politically-charged and are shown in an industrial style theatre with 50 seats. The Cinema Oblò organizes viewings of current and past documentaries, short, animated and experimental films, often creating events around specific themes in partnership with other associations.
Rencontres 7eme art (Think Cinema) is an international film festival held in Lausanne in March. Started in 2018, it showcases new and old cult films and cinema classics with directors, actors and producers in attendance. Masterclasses, conferences and roundtables are also on offer.
The Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival (LUFF), started in 2002 and organized in the fall, brings music and film together in a week-long festival at Monbenon and a few other locations. The LUFF presents films that are to a great extent experimental and unknown to the general public. Films are then followed in the evening by avant-garde concerts. Check out the OFF festival for access to free concerts.
The Festival cinemas d’Afrique – Lausanne screens original programming of films from the African continent and aims to promote and disseminate African films, support African filmmakers, and raise public awareness.
A bit farther away is the Visions du Reel, a documentary film festival started in 1969 and held each year in Nyon in April. Many international premiers take place each year, as well as sessions with filmmakers and masterclasses.
Even further afield but worth the trip is the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, organized each March. Based in Geneva with some showings outside the city, it is one of the biggest human rights and cinema events in the world. It presents both fiction and documentary films, and filmmakers are often present during screenings. Many showings are also followed by debates and discussions, bringing together human rights activists, diplomats, NGOs, artists, academics, and institutions from Geneva and abroad.