For many generations of Athenians, the sweet-smelling of flowery vines of Cine-Thission bring back memories of romantic rendez-vous.
“Earnings have doubled this year” is a phrase you seldom hear in Greece these days. Yet, that’s the case for Thomas Maniakis who runs Cine Thission open air cinema for over 30 years together with his family. A larger and international crowd is now discovering one of Athens’ oldest open air cinemas (est. 1935) since its last summer’s placement as the world’s best for CNNGo travel website
Paper clippings about the international distinction are on display at the entrance, while Hera, the most cinephile dog in Athens relaxes by the tickets booth.
Cine Thission is located on the car-free promenade that surrounds Athens archeological sites, within walking distance from “Acropolis” and “Thission” Metro stops. Its premises are being protected by heritage law.
A sort of natural air-conditioning aided by an underground stream plus a thick vine canopy surrounding its walls are long-known among Athenian public. The ticket price (regular € 8, students € 6) remains low and affordable – a policy gaining grounds among many historical movie theatres in Athens this year.
Screenings specialize in classic and contemporary awarded movies from Europe and the USA. “At least one movie by Alfred Hitchcock is programmed during the 6-month operating season” Mr Maniakis says, a statement proved by The Man Who Knew Too Much figuring in the Coming Shortly posters at the entrance.
Hitchcock’s North by North-West is remembered as Cine-Thission’s top hit for the past decade, with a record number of weeks on show and a widest age-range among its spectators. Once again, Cary Grant’s agony pays out.
Passers-by too congratulated Mr Maniakis during our interview for Balkon3. His nephew offers us the popular home-made sour cherry lemonade, a family specialty which customers get at the bar. You can also find sour cherries served as a traditional sweet (boiled in syrup) or turned into home-made liqueur (steeped in Metaxa 5-Star brandy and brown sugar). Last but not least, Cine-Thission originally offers one of Greece’s best meze, i.e. smoked fish roe (“avgotaraho”), accompanied by an extra distilled Greek spirit called Tsipouro.
If a sudden shower breaks out when you watch a movie, consider yourselves lucky: there is a special covered space reserved for seated spectators (if chilly, shawls and blankets are available); there’s nothing like a good movie under the sounds of the rain…!
The unrivalled full view to the lit-up nighttime Acropolis is unique among Athens open air cinemas. The nearby Sound and Light show causes the Parthenon to suddenly change colors, an event that always coincides with a movie showing on Thission screen, disrupting out attention.
A primary concern for the Maniakis’ family is to get younger audiences acquainted with classic masterpieces, with directors and actors significant in the history of cinematography. This remains an important element of contrast to the mainstream Multiplex repertoire.
Competition with Multiplex cinemas is tough, and is expected to get tougher if proposed regulations for upgrading projection systems get through (with costs for their purchase amounting to 80 thousand euros). For the moment, the family enterprise makes use of latest technology to promote Cine-Thission to a wider audience, with a regularly updated website and a facebook page.
For many generations of Athenians, the sweet-smelling of flowery vines of Cine-Thission bring back memories of romantic rendez-vous. Athenian-born songwriter Loukianos Kilaidonis has added a touch of nostalgy in the setting, as he notices his youth passing by…and…
“What remains, after all
Is these moon-lit nights
In the open air cinemas
Nights that pass and will never come back
With honeysuckle and jasmine.”
Rapid post-war urbanization in Athens, the coming of television and changes in the way of living meant the tearing down and closure of (once plentiful) open air garden-like cinemas. A public awareness and protection movement since the 1980’s has helped regenerate a drive for support (among which via public management and heritage policy). Later on, it was enriched by original private initiatives of small enterprises. Today, for Cine-Thissio as much as all open air cinemas, that have so far endured against all odds, we trust and hope they will keep us company for yet more generations to come.