Amphitheatre, Updated: Open-air cinemas are a longstanding tradition in Greece

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Cinemas Features

The summer season in Greece is graced by a popular and very special form of outdoor recreation: open-air movies, or therino, as the Greeks call it. Many generations have grown up with this activity, which represents more than simply watching a good film and being an inspiration to Greek songwriters.

As a film plays on a white projection screen in a terrace or courtyard, some starting as late as 11 p.m., many residents of Athens and various villages and islands find pleasure in this wonderful activity, sitting on chairs, drinking cold beer and eating popcorn under the stars, surrounded by the scent of jasmine and gardenias. In the middle of the film there is a 20-minute break and the lights come on. There’s some stretching, a little movement on the chairs, and the first conversations between companions arise: How do you find the film? Do you think the hero is going to make it? Others relax and take time to eat something, refresh their drinks, and just feel at home.

Their story dates back to the early 1900s, with the first open showings in the coffee shops of Syntagma Square in the center of Athens. Not long after the first open movie in 1904, others followed in many cities of Greece. As the trend became more and more popular in the ’60s, more than 500 outdoor cinemas opened.

Today, about 100 exist all over Greece, including some of the oldest and most historic ones. Films vary from contemporary to classic, all shown in their original language with Greek subtitles. For about seven to nine euros, anyone can enjoy a good film with a spectacular view of the Acropolis or the seaside or even contemporary graffiti from surrounding buildings. Let’s look at some of the most beautiful ones and explore their stories.

Aigli Zapiou

One of the oldest open-air cinemas in the heart of Athens opened in 1903 in Aigli Zapiou, an area that has been an integral part of the social life of the city ever since. The first movie shown was the French film Ten Women after a Man. As the cinema is right next to the Zapion garden, it’s a great choice, especially in high temperatures. There’s a courtyard with a lovely interior, and a green garden inside with a nice screen and great acoustics. Audiences can also enjoy handmade snacks there.

Cine PARIS

Where does the name Cine PARIS come from? The idea originated in the 1920s from a Greek hairdresser who used to live in Paris. During the ’60s it was both an open and indoor movie venue. After closing due to the cinema crisis, it reopened in 1986. The theatre is in a roof garden in one of the most picturesque areas of the historical center, in Plaka, under the Acropolis rock.

A cinema for classic film lovers, it shows new films as well.

Cine Thisio

How can I describe such an adorable place? CNN called Cine Thislo one of the most enjoyable movie theatres in the world. This venue with a garden setting has comfortable seats and small tables where you can put your food and drinks. Drinks include handmade visinada, made of sour cherries, the traditional Greek tsipouro and others, while food includes handmade cheese pies and hot dogs. Cine Thislo was built in 1920 with a lovely view of the lit Acropolis rock. It offers a variety of films, from classics to modern. A historic venue, simple and delicate.

Cine Dexameni

Cine Dexameni islocated in the old aqueduct of Athens in the heart of the Kolonaki area, which is closed to the city center. It opened in 1905 and a few years later became a shadow theatre. It wasn’t until 1991 that it became an open-air movie theatre again. Simple and well decorated in green, it shows mainstream movies and award-winning films from international festivals such as Cannes. A very good choice for a hot night. The bar supplies pizza and cold beer, and you may want to try ouzo, a Greek traditional drink, at the ouzeri close to the venue.

Cine Zefiros

After a wonderful walk across Thisio, Zefiros is located in one of the most lively areas of the city, Petralona, a very old neighborhood of Athens. Its story goes back to the early 1930s, when it was opened as a shadow theatre and variety house. Though in the center of the city, it offers a cool space on hot days. This venue especially appeals to movie buffs who love classic films and documentaries.

Cine Floisvos

As we move away a little bit from the city center and go south, we come to Cine Floisvos, a wonderful outdoor cinema with a gorgeous sea backyard. With very comfortable chairs, it offers new films and 3D showings under the stars. This relatively new cinema is situated in the Floisvos-Faliron area, next to the water. People usually combine their movie outing with a nice walk to the sea.

Cine Lila

What comes to mind when you reach this cinema is its retro atmosphere, evoking the ’60s and ’70s. In the interior there is an appealing smell of vasilikos, Greek for the basil plant. Cine Lila is located in Kipseli, an area that saw great cultural development during the ’60s and became a steki, or hangout, for many famous Greek actors of the time. Today, the area may not have the same status it had in the glory days, but it does offer artistic interest and many neoclassical buildings. Cine Lila is a little oasis amongst the buildings of contemporary Athens. It offers high-quality films and free Wi-Fi.

Cine Palas, Syros island

Cine Palas is situated in an atrium of a preserved building from the 18th century. One of the most noble cinemas of the Aegean, it has been operating since 1951. During the summer, it hosts screenings of the Syros International Film Festival.

Cine Kamari, Santorini

On the beautiful island of Santorini, this open-air cinema opened in 1987 in the area of Kamari. Based on the traditional architecture of the island, it has a pretty inside with reduced lighting. During the summer season it offers various cultural events such as theatre and concerts, as well as exhibiting artworks.

Open-air movies in Greece mix elements of culture, history, nostalgia and outdoor activity, complementing and enhancing the lives of Greek citizens and their love for cinema entertainment that has existed for more than 100 years. Friends can meet, relax and enjoy beautiful venues and enter the magical world of films. Don’t miss this special treat if you happen to be visiting Greece.