NEWS

Why are summer cinemas under threat?

Everyone has a story to tell about summer cinemas. I remember years ago Theodoros Riggas, president of the Panhellenic Union of Summer Cinema Professionals, talking about the 1960s. He recalled kids perched in trees around the old Panathiaia cinema on Alexandras Avenue or on the wooden fence at the Thiseion in downtown Athens, and actress Sofia Vembo on the balcony of the famous blue apartment block opposite the Vox in Exarchia, which was built in 1920. The nostalgia was for the era rather than the specific films, for the days when summer cinemas offered popular entertainment that replaced the yards where people once watched the Karagiozis puppet theater. In my memories of the 1980s, the summer cinemas of Athens are like a summer school for cinephiles who have to retake exams, screening repeats of good films from the winter season and faded copies of the classics. These days it is hard to discuss open-air cinemas separately from issues such as town planning and the character of the city, which is changing at lightning speed, or without considering cinema today as a form of mass entertainment that is centered on multiplexes. The release of restored classics in June is a sign of hope. It helped prove that when distributors take their time to be selective and use their imagination (instead of emptying out their stock of unwanted movies from winter), summer cinemas pull in the crowds. If owners of summer cinemas are equally selective, and pay attention to screening films properly, they have a chance of surviving.