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 >  Greek culture  >  Open-air cinemas of Greece

Holiday cinemas of Greece

- by Andy Cornish

Open air cinemas are a popular feature of many Greek Island holidays and many of the larger islands, and some of the smallest, will have screens set up in the open where holiday visitors can enjoy movies al fresco.

The traditional Greek family-run cinemas may have none of the cutting edge technology of modern multiplex centres found in Britain but they more then make up for it in the combination of romance and magic of watching movies outdoors beneath an star-filled sky.

The British newspaper, The Independent, recently voted an open-air cinema on the island of Mykonos among the six greatest in the world while The Guardian newspaper rated Santorini as the island to visit for the best in outdoor cinema.

Some argue that the origins of open air cinemas of Greece can be traced back to the tradition of ancient Greek drama which was always staged in open air theatres.

Whatever it's history, the atmosphere is like no other when opening movie credits come with a whiff of oregano in the air, walls decked in bougainvillea and possibly the aroma of a wood-fired barbecue nearby.

Open-air cinemas have long been a part of modern Greek culture. The summer cinemas, or therini kinimatografi in Greek, suffered a short period of decline in the 1980's but have made a big comeback in recent years and most Greek islands, large and small, will feature outdoor movies somewhere.

The first open air cinemas started up in Athens in the 1920's. They were very basic with just a projection screen or even a whitewashed wall, a few lines of chairs and a table for the projector and for added luxury a table with jugs of lemon and orange juice.

By the 1930s many neighbourhoods had their own outdoor cinemas where local people could enjoy cheap movie shows. But it was after World War Two that they took off in a big way and reached their zenith in the 1960's and 1970's, reflecting the parallel growth of the Greek film industry.

The rise in colour TV ownership in the 1980's saw a dent in popularity but they are now making a big comeback.New venues appear each year and old ones are smartened up st attract more sophisticated audiences.

Today, cinemas are more likely to show Hollywood blockbusters with Greek sub-titles than home grown movies. The Independent newspaper rated Cine Manto on the romantic Greek island of Mykonos in their list of six greatest open-air cinemas around the world.

Cine Manto is located in a botanical garden amid Mediterranean plants and lily strewn ponds while a restaurant serves meals beneath the tree canopy of trees.

And The Guardian praised Cine Paris, in Athens, and Cine Kamari, on the island of Santorini, as they added them on their list of best outdoor cinemas anywhere.

Among the more popular open air cinemas in the Greek Islands are the open-air Cine Asteria in Rethymnon in Crete as well as two in nearby Chania, the Attikon on El.Venizelou and The Kypos on Dimotikos Kipos.

The island of Samos has the Cine rex in Mitilinioi village set among lemon trees which served food before the show begins with wine and beer on the table and the delight of an evening summer breeze.

Even the smallest resorts can boast open-air performances. The open air Gardenia on the minute island of Hydra shows a variety of Greek, English-language, and foreign films during the summer and your author recalla watching a Harry Potter movie in the tiny resort of Batsi on Andros while a real thunderstorm raged around, adding more than a touch of authenticity to the spectacle.

The summer cinemas of Greece usually open from May to September, when the hot summer weather settles in. Long may they continue to delight Greek audiences and overseas holiday visitors.