In keeping with social-distancing requirements, restaurants and airports around the world are being reconceived as drive-in movie theaters, and this summer, a new take on the concept will be making waves in Paris, when 150 people will be chosen to watch a movie on the big screen – from the comfort of a private boat floating in the Bassin de la Villette canal.

An annual event, Paris Plages was introduced in 2002 to bring the signature signs of summer – palm trees and beaches, lounge chairs and shady umbrellas – to the banks of the Seine. Several years ago, after an intensive cleanup effort in the 19th arrondissement, the city opened three swimming pools at the Bassin de la Villette, and this year, the canal will be the site of the event’s premiere attraction: Le Cinéma sur l’Eau, the Cinema on the Water. 

A crowded opening day for the pools on le Bassin de la Villette (Canal de l'Ourcq).
The city added three swimming pools to the Bassin de la Villette in 2017 © Tommy Larey/Shutterstock

Ahead of the 18 July launch, 150 people will be selected to spend the evening aboard 38 electric boats, each of which can accommodate two, four, or six people (all from the same family or group of friends, naturally). An additional 150 people will be given the chance to commandeer a deck chair on the Quai de la Seine. 

The main attraction will be a screening of 2018’s Le Grand Bain (Sink or Swim), about a group of middle-aged male friends who start a synchronized swimming team, and before that, event sponsor mk2 films will show the winning entry in its short-film contest, launched in March and featuring movies made in quarantine.  

“The cinema occupies an important place in the district,” mk2 managing director Elisha Karmitz said in a press release. “After several months of closure, it's a beautiful way to celebrate.” Registration for tickets is free and open from now through 15 July. For more information, visit

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