Athens Mayor Wants to Preserve Historic Cinemas
Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, city residents and heritage groups are calling for the protection of two historic cinemas in the Greek capital after the Culture Ministry said they could not be listed as cultural monuments.
The calls concern the Ideal and Astor cinemas in the heart of Athens which date back to the early 1900s. Addressing a press conference this week, Bakoyannis said the Athens City Council had reiterated its call underlining the importance of safeguarding the Greek capital’s historic buildings.
“We are all here because we want to join our voices with yours and underline the need to declare these two historic cinemas preserved in use. I want to remind you that something similar was done in 1997 for 47 open-air cinemas. Therefore, there is a precedent and there is cross-party consensus on this,” he said.
Referring to the culture ministry announcement, Bakoyannis said the two cinemas were part of Athens’ DNA and identity. The city, he said, belongs to its permanent residents and all efforts for economic development must be connected to their life.
“Yes, we want economic development. We want investments, we want visitors. However, we do not want Athens to lose its spirit. We don’t want to turn into an ancient Greek Disneyland. The opposite. Our strength is our authenticity and mixed use. We are not competing with Dubai, nor do we want a deserted city. We want a city made for the permanent residents and that is why we are here today,” he said.
Last month, a study revealed the urgent need for the municipality to formulate and implement a full-scope policy that will set the terms and conditions for business activity in the city center and in this way safeguard the capital from gentrification. The gentrification of Athens over the last few years, the study found, is creating a new urban reality that is impacting both the life of residents and the viability of businesses.
In addition to Bakoyannis’ calls, the Greek Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage (ELLET) has also urged the culture ministry to reconsider its decision and to declare the iconic movie theaters as preserved monuments. It is also calling for actions and policies that will revitalize the historic center.
Last month the culture ministry said that under a 2021 law the two cinemas “do not meet the criteria” for enhanced protection adding that it could not intervene in the future of the two theaters.
“The preservation of the use of the cinema halls in the center of Athens is an essential and symbolic choice that contributes to the establishment of the necessary balance between the timeless identity of the historic center and the transformations it is undergoing as a result of new investments,” said ELLET.
Earlier this week, Greek hospitality group Mitsis Hotels said it would be investing 36 million euros to restore and renovate of the Schliemann – Mela Mansion which houses the Ideal. In addition to creating a luxury hotel on the premises, Mitsis Hotels said it has plans for the cinema which will be announced after a static adequacy study is carried out.