Old cinema undergoing conversion

One of the oldest and most popular Athenian movie theaters, Ambelokipi’s Anesis, has closed its doors this winter as it is being remodeled into an entertainment complex, reflecting a spate of similar moves by other theaters throughout the capital. The reconstruction work has been commissioned to the Haragionis Group and will include art deco features on the facade such as those seen at the Rex Theater on Panepistimiou Street, as well as a variety of uses for the physical space of Anesis, which until recently was home to an indoor and open-air movie theater. The building is now scheduled to host a theater, a restaurant, an open-air cinema, a cafe and a conference venue, and this is all expected to be completed in time for the Athens Olympics in August. The Anesis movie theater was built in 1959 on designs by architect Anastasios Kritharas and engineer Stamatis Manganiotis. This was a time when the district of Ambelokipi was fast developing into a hub of the local movie theater scene and cinema was booming throughout the country, partly because the arrival of television in the average Greek home came comparatively late. The construction of myriad cinemas and theaters went hand in hand with the explosive development of large apartment buildings in the capital’s center, which fueled a widespread sense of optimism in the city’s transformation. These glowing temples of entertainment represented Athenians’ desire to adopt a new way of life that was in step with other big cities in Western Europe, so it was no surprise when cinemas began mushrooming in the ground-floor areas of new apartment buildings. In this light, the Anesis is of particular interest because it is one of the few cinemas in that neighborhood of Athens housed in an independent building.