Attalos, in Nea Smyrni, a neighborhood institution

This movie theater is deeply embedded in the hearts of two Nea Smyrni residents named Anna and Christina. «Attalos is where people go on their first date and their first Saturday nights out without their parents,» they said. «I remember how our parents used to drive us here and we used to ask them to leave us a couple of blocks away so our classmates wouldn’t see us and think we weren’t cool. We saw ‘Braveheart’ three times and ‘The Bodyguard’ four times.» Maria Banani is about the same age as these young women, but she knows even more about this theater. As the daughter of the theater’s owner, she is known as «Miss Attalos» because she grew up here. She now essentially runs the movie theater. «I see ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and I think of my father,» she said. «When he was a child, he would go to the movie theater that his godfather had in Pangrati and he used to climb up on a crate to reach the projector. He listened and learned and it became his passion,» she said. It was a passion which she has inherited. «I started off in the business by opening the doors, then working the bar, then the cash register. I’ve been running the theater for the last three years.» She doesn’t watch movies at Attalos because she’s too anxious about everything working properly. «I can’t enjoy them,» she told me. Banani still remembers when she used to slip out of school a couple of hours early to come to the cinema. «The cinema is like a casino; it’s a great risk,» she said. «We are responsible for satisfying a wide audience. We will bring blockbusters and comedies and popular movies, but the difference is that I know my audience and they know me. They asked me for certain kinds of chocolates and I brought them in.» She’s not fazed by the threat of multiplexes. «I don’t care if I don’t sell a lot of tickets one year because the next year will be better. I will go on even if difficult times come. A multiplex opened 2 kilometers away, but that’s OK. I will fight, just the way my father fought.»