Source AP ©

Strikes cost France pretty penny

Paris experienced an unusual movie moment.

Before the start of the film at a cinema off the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, a man walked to center stage to plead with the paltry crowd of a dozen to get their friends out to the movies.

Strikes that have stopped France's trains and the Paris subway system are costing the country at least 300 million EUR(US$439.6 million) a day, according to a government estimate - and putting a damper on the nightlife in the French capital.

Thinning crowds like the one at the recent showing of "The Edge of Heaven," Fatih Akin's award-winning movie, are increasingly common.

"It's a catastrophe," said Sabine Lanore, a cashier at Les Trois Luxembourg, a popular Left Bank movie theater. "We have few, few people."

Jean-Marc Zekri, the manager of a small art house cinema, said ticket sales have dropped by about 35 percent since the start of the strikes a week ago. Zekri noted that because of a strike Tuesday by postal workers, the weekly publications that Parisians use to stay on top of cultural events in the capital were absent from newsstands Wednesday.

At the historic Montparnasse Theater, actors described for France-Info radio the disappointment they felt when peeking out from backstage to see only 200 people in an auditorium that seats 600.

"But then we said to ourselves, 'Imagine the day they must have spent in the car or in public transit," actor Bruno Solo said. "They braved that to come here. We're going to give them a (good show)."

Popular nightclubs around the city have also felt the pinch, as would-be revelers without rails or wheels stay home. Those who manage to make it keep the party going and stay until closing, said Elena Giustiniani, spokeswoman for the well known Le Bus Palladium where singers perform.

"It's still hard to motivate the artists with less people," she said.

Businesses that depend on foot traffic and office workers have also felt the impact.

"How are things with the strike? Fine, if you think it's fine that I come in every day to lose money," said Benoit Fauvert, owner of a sandwich shop in Paris' chic 8th district.

Fauvert said business was down because many commuters who frequent the shop have simply stayed home in recent days.

The strikers are "people who are always looking backward to find solutions," he said.

"I agree that you cannot move too fast in a country like France, but ... you have to move."

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