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Open-air cinemas with deck-chairs and sea-side view

10 July 2009 / 21:07:46  GRReporter
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In Athens, the trend of open-air cinema is back again. A lot of cinemas have turned the open spaces they are situated at in a true summer oasis- the viewers can lye on deck chairs or sit in comfortable couches, drinking a cocktail or beer from the bar and watching classic old movies with a Dolby surround sound.

The open-air cinemas place screens on buildings’ balconies or in their back yards, and welcome everyone that wishes to relax and enjoy the warm summer nights, while watching a retro-movie or a most recent Hollywood production.

There are at least 15 open-air cinemas working in Athens downtown that are opened from the beginning of June until the end of September, when the first rains fall. Not all of the cinemas close in the winter, however, since some of them have retractable roofs that can be used according to the weather.

“Visiting open-air cinemas is my favorite entertainment during summertime, together with music-festival concerts” says Olga Manoli. “My best experience is from last summer when I was in an open-air cinema in Pirea and saw “La môme”, the movie for the life of Edith Piaf. The music was great, the sound was perfect and you could fully enjoy the movie. Very often you cannot hear the movie sound very well, since cinemas are situated among residential buildings and the sound is turned down, so you cannot fallow the actors’ lines. This cinema in Pirea, however, is located on a hill nearby the sea, with no buildings around. It was amazing- we were watching the movie, listening to the music and could see the sea surface with the moonlight reflecting on it.”

Visiting an open-air cinema is not only a means to bring back memories from those times in the jasmine- flavored back yards. Although that, if we take a look at the cinemas schedule, the audience would like to go back to the past with Hitchcock movies, who s the most demanded director in the open-air cinemas, as well as Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Woody Allen movies.

The owner of one of the most traditional cinemas- “Thissio”, Thomas Maniakis, says that in his cinema “the movies are changed every week, sometimes every two weeks, depending on the movie. When we play Hitchcock, it stays for at least two or three weeks. For the last five, or maybe even eight, years we play old classic movies. This is what the audience likes, so they come and visit.”

The “Thissio” cinema is located at the foot of the Acropolis hill, from where the audience can also enjoy the view of the bathed in light hill. The owner proudly reminds me to take a picture in this direction, too, in case I have forgotten…

Mr. Maniakis tells me that the cinema “has been working since 1935, with no interruption even during the war. It is a family business- my brother, my nephew, my sister- they all work here. If it were not a family business, it would not survive- the costs are huge and the movies are extremely expensive. We broke a record this year, opening on April 20, and we are going to close on October 15.”

This year’s most successful movie was “The Thomas Crown Affair” with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway from 1968, but the overall visits of open-air cinemas have drooped down in the last years, says Mr. Maniakis. “the viewers are less because there are no good movies. The ones shot in Hollywood, not the European ones, are made to be watched at the multiplex and they attract young people. They enjoy the action, the shooting and munching popcorn with coke”, sadly shares the owner of one of the oldest and most famous open-air cinemas in Athens, and appeals to the audience to go back to the yards (I can’t use “halls”) of open-air cinemas, so they can keep existing.

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