CULTURE

Landmark movie theater to reopen with a new identity

The old Pallas movie theater will reopen its doors to the public with the first post-Olympic production of Dimitris Papaioannou, concept creator of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Over the past two years, the Pallas has been completely remodeled. The stakes were high from the beginning, when Piraeus Bank leased the entire Army Pension Fund Building, with very specific things in mind for the historical Voukourestiou Street building, which was falling into disrepair. The architectural firm led by Yiannis Kizis took on the project. The revamped stage has become deeper, restored to its 1950s size, because additions made over the past decades had reduced the stage area. The roof was also raised, an important development because the theater is now able to host opera productions. The box office will retain its trademark wooden and metal decor and the fake ceiling its art deco style. The seats, reduced from 2,000 to 1,500, will be brand-new and will be in tune with the decorative motif. The foyer, which had been taken over by the Orvo Theater, will be restored and a glass entrance will be made on Voukourestiou Street. The theater will be accessible to people with disabilities, as a special elevator is being constructed in the Spyromiliou arcade. The Pallas will also be able to host conferences like the former Aliki Theater on Amerikis Street and will house offices for interpreters as well as conference halls. Designers say the building can easily be changed to accommodate both theater productions and conference space. Initially no provision had been made to use the two theaters for conferences, but as work progressed and the cost became higher, Piraeus Bank reconsidered. The acoustics at the Pallas have also been improved and the theater sound-proofed to keep out noise from traffic or the Aliki Theater, which is located right below the Pallas. The new venue will more often be used for music, dance and opera productions instead of classical music concerts. Building on a storied past The Pallas is part of the Army Pension Fund Building, which was constructed where the former royal stables used to be in order to house state services. An architectural tender was launched in 1925, which was won by architects Vassilis Kassandras and Leonidas Bonis, who were also responsible for the Rex Theater on Panepistimiou Street. Construction on the complex, which consists of nine buildings, started in 1928 and was completed in 1940 in three separate building phases. The Stadiou facade came first, then the Pallas on Voukourestiou and finally the Panepistimiou side. The two architects were inspired by similar halls in Western and Central Europe while, according to Athens University professor and researcher Eleni Emmanouil-Fessa in her book «The Architecture of Modern Greek Theater, 1720-1940,» the Pallas movie hall and theater resembles similar venues in Paris, such as the famous Theatre Pigalle (1929) and the lesser-known movie theater Pathe Marignan (1932), now known as Gaumont Marignan. The Pallas had already fallen into disrepair by the early 1970s, when it stopped screening first-release films. After that, it occasionally hosted classical music concerts (as an unofficial home of the Athens State Orchestra) and film tributes or festivals.