At The Former Éclair Laboratory

The Former Éclair Film Laboratory

Over the course of the last century, the Éclair film laboratory – established in Épinay-sur-Seine in 1907 – developed, printed, and created effects for the majority of films shot on celluloid for the French market.

In 2015, after suffering the effects of the transition to digital, this industrial complex spanning 10 acres was closed.

Located only 30 minutes away from the center of Paris via public transportation, the former Éclair film laboratory is currently being transformed into a vast cultural district by the city of Epinay-sur-Seine which bought the land in 2018.

Starting in 2023, this lively new part of the city will bring together more than a hundred artist studios and workshops, a community-run restaurant, an art gallery, and a venue for concerts and other live events.

Part and parcel of this renaissance, Navire Argo will move into a 1,400 m2 space in the Production building, a part of the complex where laboratory technicians developed camera negatives and clients previewed color-corrected prints in a dedicated screening room.

Filmmakers will now pick up where these technicians left off, opening the doors of the screening room to the public. The very industry that remained inaccessible to many filmmakers will now be put to the service of contemporary photochemical film practices and the perpetuation of hands-on skills and technical knowledge.

Renovations for Navire Argo

Moving into this building has several advantages, as parts of its infrastructure can be put back into use: there are already air exhaust outlets in the development area, and the screening room has a projection booth that is ready to house our 35mm and 16mm projectors.

This space, initially constructed for large-scale industrial activity, must nonetheless be adapted to the needs of filmmakers working on film today. The building, which dates from 1952 and has been empty for nearly a decade, also shows many signs of deterioration.

The former array of film processors running round-the-clock produced enough heat to keep the building warm despite the lack of thermal insulation. This requires us to rethink the building for our current needs and to limit energy consumption. We need to insulate the walls and ceilings, install a central heating system, and replace the windows with double-glazed glass.

While the screening room was formerly used only by film professionals such as producers and directors of photography, it must now meet all of the safety regulations that will allow us to open it to the public.

The spaces inside of the lab must also be reconfigured: partition walls must be torn down, dust-free rooms need to be created, and the points of entry to the different parts of the lab must be rethought. A space dedicated to the long-term conservation of Navire Argo’s collection of film prints will also be required.

An initial study conducted in the Fall of 2021 with a consultant architect allowed us to determine the feasibility of the project and to produce an estimate of 2.5 million euros for the renovation work.

Architect: François Le Pivain

Funding the Project

This investment is coherent with the building’s size and infrastructure and should be considered in light of the stakes involved in the creation of a long-term space.

Following the renovation work, the filmmaker-members will set up the various lab spaces and carry out the installation of the machines.

In exchange for the large sums that we will invest in this building owned by the city of Épinay-sur-Seine, the local government has agreed to put the space at our disposal freely on a long-term basis.

We are currently raising the funds with 80% of the investment provided by public partners, namely the French State and local government agencies.

These funds will be completed by the contribution of private funds to the extent of 20% of the budget, combining support from foundations, corporate patronage and individual donations.

To contribute to our fundraising efforts, you can help by sharing our project with individuals, institutions, and businesses who could be interested in making a donation.

If you have the means to do so and would like to contribute to making Navire Argo a reality, you can make a donation yourself.

If you happen to be a French tax-resident, please use the French version of this page so that your donation is tax-deductible.

The organization L’Abominable is supported by the French National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC), the Ile-de-France region, the Seine-Saint-Denis department and the town of La Courneuve.

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