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The Zentih in Caen

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The Zénith in Caen: "Never before have we been so close to the stars". A concert venue concept adapted to all styles of music and performing arts. Inaugurated in 1993 it offers a seating capacity of 6,500 & a 46 metre stage. Every year, it attracts over 250,000 spectators from throughout the region

The birth of the "Zénith" concept.
In 1981, the Ministry for Culture opened its doors to rock and, more generally, to all forms of popular music. The ministry's policy, in association with the industry and artists, aimed at bringing the great wealth of contemporary music to the attention of the general public. The "Zénith" concept was born from a simple, yet obvious idea, just like all good ideas: to design a venue specially designed to welcome all musical styles. The idea gradually became reality thanks to the work of two architects, Philippe Chaix and Jean-Paul Morel, who, along with professionals from the performing arts, Daniel Colling and Daniel Keravec, invented the "Zénith" concept.

The reasons behind its success
First and foremost, the fact that the Zénith concept is a simple one that satisfies genuine needs is one of the secrets of its immediate success. Popular music is not necessarily synonymous to precarious and fleeting. The public, quite naturally looking for a good view, quality sound, comfortable seating and a warm welcome, needs to be satisfied, whilst considering the needs of the profession: concerts are not only increasingly sophisticated, they are also very different from one another. Tastes change very quickly. Consequently, venues should not be equipped with inflexible and heavy scenic fixtures. Stage-audience relationship, acoustic quality, abundant spectator movements must therefore be considered with specific options in mind. Following discussions with professionals from the industry and collaborative work with the designers of the Paris Zénith, key criteria were identified to ensure the most functional venue possible, satisfying both artists and the public alike: criteria which are now part of a quite unique set of specifications.

The Zénith label
"Zénith" is a brand name, the use of which is controlled by COKER, the company in charge of the programme of events for the La Villette venue, and by the French Ministry for Culture. The use of the name is subject to specific terms and conditions aimed at guaranteeing optimal use and management of associated venues.

Specifications and operating costs
Any Zénith must offer a seating capacity of at least 3,000, optimal capacity for each town being estimated following specific market studies. Seventy per cent of activities must involve the performing arts and 30% business (conferences, conventions, official receptions) and cultural and sporting events. Zénith concert halls are all adjustable (the audience can be partly seated and partly standing). Operating costs are reduced to a minimum: the specifications clearly define the most favourable operating policy for optimal management. The company never produces its own show: hence, it maintains total independence, a pledge for continued pluralism in its artistic choices, and it never takes financial risks, since its activity is limited to hiring the venue.

The Zénith in Caen
Located within the immediate vicinity of the town centre, alongside the Parc des Expositions (exhibition centre), the Zénith was inaugurated on the 19th of June 1993. It was designed by the architects Claude Renouf and Jacques Millet, in close collaboration with the scenographer, Bern. With its adjustable amphitheatre of a seating capacity of 6,500, Normandy's capital city can now welcome events that are as important as they are varied: concerts, recitals, one-man shows, musicals, theatre, skating and other sporting events. The venue's excellent reputation has attracted a number of illustrious artists to Normandy. With an annual turnover of over 250,000 spectators, the Zénith has become, in just a few years, one of Caen's leading cultural venues.

  • Spectacle Elton John