Fire-scarred cinemas await facelift, three years on

Two historical movie theaters in downtown Athens could be fully operational once more by the end of the year, if all goes according to plan in an initiative of the Museum of the City of Athens and the Vouros-Eutaxias Foundation with the support of Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, who hopes that their relaunch could signal the rebirth of central Stadiou Street – once a vibrant shopping and entertainment thoroughfare and now a desolate stretch of closed shops.

It bodes well for the plan – though few know this fact – that the interior areas of both the Attikon and Apollon cinemas were untouched by the firebombs thrown by protesters in February 2012 during a violent riot that claimed the lives of three employees at Marfin Bank, located nearby on Stadiou Street. The exteriors of the two movie theaters, which are both located in the same once-beautiful block, were badly damaged.

“The fire was stopped at the last minute thanks to the efforts of a handful of firefighters and the cinemas’ operator, Giorgos Tsakalakis, and members of his family and staff on that fateful day,” says Antonis Vogiatzis, president of the board of directors for the Museum of the City of Athens, which is located nearby.

The plan being put forward has a budget of approximately 700,000 euros, more or less equal to the insurance payout. It is based on a preliminary study by Ioannis Liakatas, an architect and professor emeritus at the National Technical University of Athens, as well as a member of the museum board. Liakatas has been commissioned to complete the study for the restoration of the Stadiou Street entrances to the two cinemas, strengthen parts of the building that were damaged by fire and later restore them completely.

The involvement of the City of Athens is key to the plan being brought to fruition as Kaminis hopes to help resolve a legal wrangle that dates back to 1989 between the Stamatis Dekozis-Vouros Foundation, which owns the building, and the Museum of the City of Athens – Vouros-Eutaxias Foundation.

The management of the Museum of the City of Athens is determined to make it work. “It would be a highly symbolic initiative and would have enormous benefits for the city center,” says Vogiatzis.

Both the Attikon and Apollon are insured but a claim has not been filed. Meanwhile, in a bid to get the ball rolling, the City of Athens waived the 200,000-euro fee for the construction license to restore the two facades, but since then nothing has been done to get the work started.