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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.

“They are very few and unique. If they close, the audience will have to be trapped between four walls, with high decibels and maximum sound.” According to Mr. Makias, the reason for the audience to draw back is that “there are no good movies. People are interested but quality movies cannot be found. The old movies are good, the actors are professional, they are made by good directors and screenwriters.”

The tourists’ interest towards open-air cinema, however, does not decrease- some of them enjoy relaxing with a cocktail and a snack, watching a nice movie, after an exhausting day of archeological tours in Athens. This year Mr. Maniakis have included in his cinema’s schedule the movies “Roman Holiday”, “Sleeper”, “Un Homme et une femme” and “Love and Death “. And not to forget- the cinema’s special- cherry-brandy and morello jam made with black sugar, prepared by the owners by family recipe.

The rest of the cinemas have their specials too- the “Atinea” is famous for it’s cheese pie, “Egli” has its sheesh with mustard, kebap at “Fleri”, the meatballs at “Daphne”, mixed dish with dried tomatoes and parmesan on a rusk at “Palini”, Domino pizza at “Bomboniera” - specializing in blockbusters-, and the sunflower and all other kinds of seeds at “Oasis” cinema.

Some of the oldest summer cinemas in Athens are “Zefiros” – again at Thissio, “Psiri” at the Psiri square, “Box” cinema, which is situated on a terrace at the Exarchia square, and nearby at the Valtetsiou street, in a splendid yard you can find the “Riviera” cinema. Situated in Kolonaki  - the central part of Athens – is one of the oldest, or maybe the oldest summer cinemas in Athens – “Deksameni”, next to which is a small park with an unpretentious coffee place surrounded by plants, perfect for a cold beer and French fries in the summer.

Situated in the park behind the Zapio castle is “Egli” summer cinema, hidden behind the palm trees. Before or after the screening, one can enjoy the nearby coffee-restaurant, where you can find peacefulness far away from the noise of the city and a gorgeous view of the Olympic stadium Kalimarmaro at the hill. The ticket price for the movies has remained unchanged for years at 7 euros, while students, children and pensioners pay 5 euros.

An alternative choice is watching a movie at the terrace of “45 degrees” bar in Gazi, with a view of the Akropolis, but be prepared – you won’t be able to hear a word of the dialogues or the soundtrack of the movie, as the volume is lowered and music is playing from the bar.

The open-air cinemas first appeared in Greece in the beginning if 20th century and gain highest popularity between 1958 and 1974. Contemporary open-air cinemas have a rich repertoire of classic movies attracting huge audiences, or play movies that have already been played at the winter cinemas and are proved to be successful. A huge success last summer in the Greek open-air cinemas caused the “Mamma Mia” production with Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, which stayed on the screens for a couple of weeks.

Marina Nikolova

Summer Cinemas:



50 Haritos Street, Kolonaki, Metro Station “Evangelismos”, tel. 2107215717



Zapio, tel. 2103369369



Ymittos Square, tel. 2107626418


82 Themistokleous Street, “Exarchia”, tel.  2103301020


Deksameni Square, Kolonaki, tel.  2103623942-2103602363 Dolby Surround



Zonara – Agapiou, Panathinea Station, tel. 2106461895  


Zefiros – New Star Art Cinema

36 Troon Street, Thissio, tel. 2103462677



7 Apostolou Pavlou Street, tel. 2103470980-2103420864  Dolby Stereo



292 Patission Avenue, St. Lucas, tel. 2102284185



Mavromichali – Final Station, tel. 2106425714 Dolby Stereo


Galatsi Cince

Veikou Park, tel. 2102138119 Dolby Digital


Pari Cince

Plaka, tel. 2103222071-2103248057 Dolby



115 Naksu Street, Patissia, tel. 2102016849



46 Valtetsiou Street, Exarchia, tel.  2103837716-2103844827


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