Multiplex cinema market rapidly reaching its saturation point in the Athens area

Athens will have more than 100 screens in cinema multiplexes within the next couple of years, reaching its saturation point, according to moderate estimates. That figure does not even include the screens of traditional cinemas, such as the six-screen Aello on Patission Avenue, which have been modernized and turned into small multiplexes. «For us, the development of simple multiplexes is finished and this is why we are transforming into an entertainment company,» the head of Village Roadshow in Greece, Haris Antonopoulos, told Kathimerini. The Greek public’s first contact with multiplex cinemas was in 1997, when Village Roadshow created the first theater with 10 screens under the same roof in Maroussi. Since then, another seven multiplexes have opened in the Athens area. The single, but substantial, difference is that gradually these multiplexes stopped being self-contained developments and were integrated into shopping centers and entertainment complexes. This trend was also introduced by Village with the creation of Village Park in Rendi. Nowadays, Ster Cinemas operates at the Escape Park in Ilion; Odeon operates a cineplex at Cosmopolis on Kifissias Avenue, while Village Roadshow operates 15 screens at The Mall Athens. Since the start of the year, Star City has been operating on Syngrou Avenue with 10 screens by Odeon, with 12 new screens expected at the shopping center of Babis Vovos in Faliron. Park Avenue, the new shopping center which Sonae-Haragionis is developing in Galatsi, will also include a six- to eight-screen cinema multiplex according to initial plans. The saturation of the Athens multiplex market is evident by the recent deal between Ster Cinemas and a foreign fund for the sale of a 30 percent stake for 8 million euros, primarily aimed at funding new investments in Bulgaria and Romania and only to a lesser extent in the Greek market, with one or two multiplexes foreseen in the southern suburbs of Athens. Southern Athens will actually be a key field of competition for the three big companies in the sector, while the plans for a metropolitan park at Hellenikon could be the last big chance for the multiplex industry in the capital. On the other side of the city, the Attiki Odos could be another solution for the opening of new multiplexes, given that the plots required are available. Yet the Attiki Odos is a not an avenue but a highway, which, company officials believe, does not serve those going out on a Saturday night. Moreover, a huge portion of the audience at multiplexes do not have their own means of transportation, while the cost of tolls is another obstacle. Antonopoulos believes that «the development of more multiplexes in the way we have known them until today has no future. We are confident that the future lies in the creation of destinations and integrated proposals for the whole family with a variety of uses.» The emerging trend, such as the latest round of developments with the integration of multiplexes, seems to confirm Antonopoulos’s words. Yet real estate companies now worry about the forthcoming saturation of the multiplex market, which today is the main leaser of shopping and entertainment centers. «Today there are many things happening simultaneously in the Greek market and especially in the capital, without allowing the time needed by consumers to absorb them,» said an official at a major real estate consultancy company, who added, «I do not think all an Athenian can do is just go shopping and see a movie.» In Europe, the shopping center creation model with a multiplex as the main entertainment is now being abandoned. Developers are going forward with more and better commercial stores, placing more weight on retail, as they realize that the addition of entertainment does not ensure the success of a shopping center. Multiplex market professionals now agree that the expansion of multiplexes will be orientated toward smaller, local solutions, which can cover areas with great population density. In this sense, interest has focused on Piraeus, which has not been developed, and in the suburbs of Peristeri, Petralona, Aghia Paraskevi and Holargos. Smaller developments could succeed in eastern Attica and as far north as Aghios Stephanos, Drosia or Dionysos.