Greece’s open-air cinemas got off to a good start after the lockdown last Friday, reopening with relatively strong box-office sales despite some stiff TV competition over the weekend – a soccer cup final and the Eurovision song contest.
Just over 16,000 tickets were sold on relaunch weekend, a number that two Athens cinema owners who spoke to Kathimerini consider satisfactory given the small number of theaters that opened and restrictions on seating. A strong roster of films, with a few standout titles, obviously helped.
Chloe Zhao’s award-winning “Nomadland” was the strongest performer, with 7,795 tickets sold at 20 theaters in Attica. The Oscar-winning drama about a woman journeying through the American West in a van after losing everything thanks to 2008’s Great Recession was a very well-timed release for the relaunch of open-air entertainment after the long fall and winter lockdown. Pixar’s animated “Soul,” a family-embracing fantasy comedy-drama, also did well – especially considering that it has been available on unlicensed streaming sites since December – coming in second place with 4,080 tickets.
Third place went to a local production, Fokion Bogris’ gangster drama “Prostimo,” which was screened at seven theaters and sold 2,293 tickets.
“The biggest challenge was squeezing two screenings into the program,” says Ilias Georgiopoulos, who runs the Anesis cinema in Ambelokipi. “We hired extra staff to speed up the cleanup between the two screenings; you can’t start before 9 p.m. [because of the light], and then there’s the curfew, which begins at 12.30 a.m., so it’s a tight squeeze.”
Alkis Gounaris, owner of the Amiko, Ecran, Elektra and Anoixis cinemas, believes that two showings are not possible under current conditions. “Unless you’re showing relatively short films, it’s almost impossible to stick to the health safety protocols and the schedule, so we’re just screening one for the time being,” he says.
Electronic tickets also appear to be a problem, as the service is not available at all theaters. “A lot of people are confused and believe that you have to book online. That is not the case; the box offices are operating as usual, though it helps if you have pre-booked,” says Georgiopoulos.