Athenians watching their cinemas disappear

Athenians watching their cinemas disappear

Times are changing, increasingly fewer people are going to the cinemas, as all of us who still go have discovered. What can one do? It’s a part of life.

The Ideal cinema in downtown Athens, which opened in 1921, is being transformed into something vague, and the Astor cinema, which opened its doors in 1947 in the Korai Arcade, is under threat of closure, while other central movie theaters have already disappeared. What can we do? These things happen. Protecting them legally (by designating them historic cultural monuments) is no easy task – probably harder than memory.

Let’s freshen that memory up a bit. Back in troubled 2012, the facade of the Attikon and Apollon movie theaters on central Stadiou Street was destroyed by fire. The halls remained intact. More than 10 years have passed since then and it seems there is no way they will ever reopen. Both the previous Athens mayor, Giorgos Kaminis, and the current one, Kostas Bakoyannis, have fought and are fighting to bring them back. A few months ago Kathimerini reported on a proposal by Bakoyannis to fully undertake the restoration of the building that houses the two cinemas, which have been closed since 2012, on the condition that the municipality will manage its operation for a reasonable period of time, to cover the costs. The board of the Museum of the City of Athens, who own the building, rejected the proposal, blocking any possibility of reopening them.

The causes that led to the closure of the Ideal are different, but the result is the same, while the Astor’s future is also at risk. The buildings that house them were auctioned off by their owner, the country’s social security fund EFKA, to a private investor for the creation of hotels. We do not doubt the good intentions of the business group that took over the building – built in the 1880s by German businessman Heinrich Schliemann to a design by Ernst Ziller – but experience has taught us not to keep our hopes up.

If Athenians had made clear that we care about our city (and not just about our own backyard), any “business interests” would think twice about intervening with the single vision of tourism development. It is as if there is no tomorrow for Athens. Citizens and politicians sit around and watch as the capital slowly transforms into a city of hotels, without reacting. Imperceptibly, buildings are handed over, one after the other, for tourist investments, while central thoroughfares, such as Panepistimiou, Stadiou and Akadimias, are deserted at night, as if cut off from the urban fabric. If we are commenting on these historic venues it is not so much to defend a cultural treasure. Between us, this should be  the work of the Culture Ministry, even if formally it does not have jurisdiction. We remember them so as not to become insentient, and we dream of a city that no longer belongs to us, believing we still inhabit it.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.