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'Therina cinema' in Athens

The Italians call it the ‘cinema sotto le stelle’ (cinema under the stars), the Greeks call it the ‘therina cinema’. Whatever you wish to call them, the summer cinemas of Athens offer a unique experience

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24 August 2011

One of the most characteristic and beautiful elements of the Greek and, even more so, the Athenian summer are the mythical summer cinemas. The summer cinema possibly originated in Egypt as a development of the shadow theatre.

In Greece, and especially in Athens, it was already popular before the war when silent movies became "talkies" as one of the most affordable means of entertainment. Athenian summer cinemas bring back unforgettable memories of summer nights surrounded by potted plants and their aromas, gravel under the feet of the audience, limelights and water fountains.

Occasionally a cat strolls in front of the movie screen and chases her shadow in the dark. Songs from loudspeakers fill the gaps during the intermission while the canteen owner serves his customers and sometimes tries to sell his wares to the seated spectators by shouting "lemonades". The ultimate freedom of outdoor smoking, the waning moon, the illuminated windows of the surrounding houses and apartments, the youngsters who watch free of charge from their balconies - a chance for them to watch 'restricted' films without parental control. This unbelievable atmosphere became a song and accompanied the happiest days of many in Greece. I am sure you remember 'Ta therina Cinema' of Loukianos Kilaidonis.

Over the years many Athenian cinemas have disappeared. Lost in the past, they have been victims of the television or suffocated by modern apartment buildings. Fortunately, some have persisted and survived, keeping the experience alive. Some of those still functioning are: The Cine Paris, which overlooks the Acropolis in Philomousou Etairia Square next to the bust of Chatziapostolou - composer of the Athenian operetta. Surrounded by neoclassical houses, it complements the old neighbourhood of Athens. The Theseion is another therina cinema.

It is located near the temple of Hephaistos next to the ancient Agora with a view towards the sacred rock and is like a bright ship sailing into the night. For visitors, the Athenian cinema can be a unique experience because films are not dubbed but subtitled.

The Athenian audience is uplifted with reruns of all-time classics and when the screen shines with Audrey Hepburn's glamour and Cary Grant's charisma, Givenchy costumes and Mancini music, immortality is guaranteed. All this magic takes place in front of the 'othoni' (screen). An ancient word for linen or cloth. The othoni is where unbelievable moving pictures hypnotise the viewer. We wish you a pleasant evening and, don't forget to glance at the moon.

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