The History of Marseille Movie Studios

Honoré de Marseille poster

Honoré de Marseille

While the Lumière brothers and Marcel Pagnol have left an indelible mark on the Marseille movie industry, other studios followed without the same success.

PHOCEA-FILM

The silent film production company Phocéa-Film was created in 1916, with the support from local personalities and theater owners. Phocéa-Film’s first production was the 10-episode miniseries La mort du sous-marin, which was distributed by Gaumont. In 1919, Phocéa-Film launched its studio in the suburbs before merging with Phocéa-Location as Lauréa-film. This new company quickly found success, not only collaborating with renowned personalities such as the writer Jean Aicard and the actor Gabriel Signoret but producing a wide variety of works. With shorts, documentaries such as La Provence pittoresque and successful feature films including La Momie (The Mummy), Les Ames Corses and Tartarin sur les alpes, Lauréa-film remained a major player for a while, until the advent of the talkies in 1931. Unable to adapt to this new format, Lauréa-film’s activity slowed down, which ultimately resulted in the closure of the studios. As a side note, let’s also mention the smaller Servaes studios which were created in 1919 and had a similar fate, closing their doors in 1922.

PROTIS-FILMS

In the late forties, the industrialist Paul Ricard – of the Pastis’ fame – partnered with businessmen to create the film production company Protis-Films, aspiring to develop a “French Holywood”. Their first production was La maison du printemps  (The House of Spring – 1949), directed by Jacques Daroy and shot in colors in the old Marcel Pagnol studios.

back to Provence Movies featureTo boost production and distribution, a big studio was then built on Mr. Ricard’s property in the Sainte Marthe neighborhood in Marseille. Inaugurated in November 1952, it featured everything from sets to construction workshops, film laboratories and administrative offices. While ambitious, the project failed to take off, the production activity remaining limited but generating a few memorable works including La Caraque Blonde (1953) starring Orane Demazis, Honoré de Marseille (1956) starring comedy stars Fernandel and Francis Blanche, Quatre pas dans les nuages as well as Sous le ciel de Provence, a French-Italian production also starring Fernandel.

Fernandel/Honore De Marseille


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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.