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The Cinema Theaters of Greece

Last Update May 9, 2023

One of the special entertainment venues of Athens are the open-air cinemas of the summer. A unique and memorable movie-going experience from viewing films from under the stars, these cinemas usually operate from May to September, depending on the weather. The theaters screen a mix of classic films, contemporary hits, and Greek productions.

Some of the notable open-air cinemas of Athens are:

  1. Cine Thisio: This is the oldest and most famous open-air cinema in Athens. Cine Thisio has a spectacular view of the Acropolis in central Athens. Established in 1935, it is located in the Thissio neighborhood and offers a range of films, including classics and newer releases.

  2. Cine Paris: Situated in the picturesque Plaka district, Cine Paris is another well-known open-air cinema in Athens. Established in the 1920s, it is nestled on a rooftop and offers fantastic views of the Acropolis and the surrounding neighborhood.

  3. Cine Aegli: Located in the lush Zappeion Gardens, Cine Aegli is an elegant open-air cinema that provides a serene setting for movie watching. The cinema is part of the Aegli Zappiou complex, which also includes a cafe, restaurant, and bar.

  4. Cine Riviera: Cine Riviera can be found in the Exarcheia neighborhood, known for its vibrant street art and alternative atmosphere. This open-air cinema has a more laid-back ambiance, screening a variety of films, including independent productions and documentaries.

  5. Cine Dexameni: Located in the upscale Kolonaki district, Cine Dexameni is set in the Dexameni Square, offering an intimate atmosphere for movie-goers. The cinema is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, making it a great spot for a night out.

  6. Cine Zefyros: Situated in the Petralona neighborhood, Cine Zefyros is a charming open-air cinema with a retro vibe. The cinema showcases a mix of classic films and recent releases, often in their original language with Greek subtitles.

These are just a few examples of the open-air cinemas in Athens, but there are many more to discover. While enjoying a film under the Athenian sky, don't forget to grab some snacks and refreshments, such as souvlaki, popcorn, or a cold frappe, which are often available at the cinema kiosks.


Historic Athens cinemas saved

May 8, 2023: Story at Keep Talking Greece [English]

Two classic Greek cinemas in Athens under threat for closure

"For the past few days, hundreds of Athenians have been hurrying to the historic Astor and Ideal cinemas in the center of the Greek capital to support the two art-house cinemas. "Our cinemas ... which is 100 years old...." said Spyros Spentzos, the owner of the cinema Ideal. "If we close, there will be only three cinemas left in the center of Athens. Is that possible for a European capital?"

April 10, 2023: Story at Le Monde [English]

"The spectre of two historic Athens cinemas being closed by commercial interests bent on turning them into a hotel and office block has spurred film-makers to get in front of the camera with pleas to stop the process."UK Guardian [English]

Interior Movie Theater in Greece

News about Greek Cinema

The combination of climate and culture makes Greek cinema viewing unique, with the famous outdoor theaters a memorable experience for tourist visitors, and an old fashioned mainstay to the movie-watching audience of Greeks.

Famous 1962 Embassy cinema in Kolonaki is changing

October 4, 2022: story at Eleftherostypos [Greek]

The "Embassy" is a historical place that you don't find anywhere else and I will respect it. At the moment, the plan is to make it a restaurant, a club with a show. Its base, however, will be the restaurant. As a cinema it had a capacity of 500 people. As a restaurant it will be smaller. I want to keep the connection with cinema. All the old projectors I found there I will preserve and highlight as architectural elements. It is a 60 year old space. I have found records from its opening in 1962. I may even keep the name "Embassy". I'm thinking maybe there will be some screenings of black and white silent films, and it will serve as a dining area. At some point after 11.00 in the evening it will turn into a club with dance music and the atmosphere will change, mainly on Friday and Saturday. I'm still looking for its final design. Clubbing in the 21st century is all about eating and then listening to music.

June 2020: Celebrating the outdoor cinemas of Greece

These articles are built around the photography by Petros Giannakouris showing aspects of Greek outdoor movie theaters. The images show the audience and screen of the famous Thision outdoor cinema in downtown Athens (I remember watching an Asterix animated film there, French language with Greek subtitles. It was an enormous arena compared to the tidy rooftop theaters in the Athens suburbs.) The photos show behind the scenes images of theatre equirpment, with rows of metal film cans in the projection booth, and the people who make it all function. Washington Post article quotes theater operator (Sotiris Riggos) who says that "things are looking up" for the recently closed-up cinemas, even with the pandemic restrictions cutting audience counts in half.

Short essay and photography at Washington Post [English]
Another short article with lots of Giannakouris photos at Associated Press [English]

From the AP article:

...Thirty years ago, there were roughly 600... cinemas all over Greece. Social change and technological advance has resulted in just over a hundred currently functioning, several of them protected by heritage laws."

June 8, 2020: Outdoor cinemas are open again

Story at WPXI [English]

May 21, 2020: VAT reductions for cinema, cafes, etc

Story at Skai [Greek]

May 1, 2020: On June 1 the reopening of open air cinemas

Story at Protothema [English]

March 12, 2020: Cinemas closing across Europe, including Greece

Story at MSN News [English]

March 4, 2020: Schools and cinemas closed

Story at Naftemporiki [Greek] and at Liberal [Greek]

Aug 17, 2019: Homage to the outdoor cinemas of Greece

Story at NeoKosmos [English]

(Viewing cinema under the sky has a long tradition in Greece, and is a modern equivelant of the ancient amphitheaters that are still used as tourist destinations and for live productions. Some Greek cinemas have outdoor rooftop theaters and interior theaters, switching back and forth according to the seasons.)

July 23, 2018: Under the sky below the Acroplis, the oldest theater in Greece

Story at xinhuanet

Over the years many traditional cinemas of Athens have disappeared, victims of the multiplex cinemas, the real estate boom and the financial crisis. Most open-air cinemas survived.

May 14, 2018: Open-air Cinema is alive in Greece

Open-air cinemas are a thing that very few countries can offer. While for Greeks catching a movie in a summer cinema sipping a cold beverage is like an institution, for visitors it is a one-off experience, almost as enjoyable as a dive in the cool, crystal-clear waters of Mykonos or a visit to the Temple of Zeus at Sounio. Most Greeks can’t wait until their favorite summer cinema opens in May, eager to catch a movie in the open air, even if they are not crazy about the film itself. Most of the time it is a ritual, where even a date at the movie theater becomes more romantic.

Story at Greek Reporter

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