The Ideal, on Panepistimiou Street, is an entertainment landmark

If you ask Aristea, who works at the Ideal movie theater, how many tickets she sold for «Silence of the Lambs» during the second week of its run in the winter of 1992, she will check her personal diary that she has kept daily since 1990, flip back until she finds the appropriate page, and tell you exactly how many tickets she sold. «We take an old-fashioned approach to our work,» she said. «We come to work an hour before showtime to get the place ready. We cry over movies that don’t do so well because we believed in them before anyone else.» Since the 1950s, the Ideal, which was designed by the famed German architect Ernst Ziller, has operated as a movie theater. Before that, it housed the Katerina Theater and even before that it was the palace stables. A lot has changed since then. «We made the decision to renovate the space at a time that was very bad for cinema,» Aristea’s co-worker Despina said. Athenians also changed what they expected of the cinema experience, which turned the Ideal into a central hot spot. The lines to get into movies used to reach for blocks. When «Home Alone» – the hugely popular family movie starring child star Macaulay Culkin – came out in 1990, the theater sold 2,300 tickets a day for a space that had only 750 seats. «Now, of course, children’s movies rarely hit the city center’s cinemas, and parents would rather go to a multiplex in their neighborhood,» Despina said. «In the last few years, there has been a turn toward art films. Thankfully, small theaters don’t have to take on monster hits from the multiplexes yet.»