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Activities - 25/07/2014


Interview with Anastasios Liagkris, Cinema Alexandra, Athens, Greece


 At the end of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, a jury made up of 4 network exhibitors has awarded the Europa Cinemas Label to FREE FALL by György Pálfi, Anastasios Liagkris  from the cinema Alexandra in Athens, was part of this jury.

Tell us more about the cinema business in your family? How has it impacted your life and work today?

My grandfather abandoned a promising academic career during the early 50s, to follow his passion: films and cinema. At the peak of his business activities, he ran 5 film theatres simultaneously, and was responsible for the film programming of more than 8 cinemas in Athens, during the so-called "golden era" of the 60s. A genuine proof of his talent was the fact that he would select a long forgotten film two or three years after its release, and turn it into an instant success.

With the coming of television, this period came to an abrupt halt, as audiences shrank dramatically.  With only one theater left, Laura, an open-air venue operating only during the summer, he basically started over from scratch. He then purchased Alexandra, a film theater in the heart of Athens. As of today, these two theatres are operated by my father.

As far as I’m concerned, I learned invaluable lessons by simply being in a place where the exchange of views and ideas with other people are on the daily agenda. The pleasure that you get by looking at the satisfied faces of the viewers after a great film is beyond compare, and for me a fundamental reason to "stick around" this kind of profession and make cinema my top priority.


How do you make your choice for the programming of both cinemas (the open air cinema and the winter cinema)?

Our policy is to show the best films available, both European and non-European.
 As a company, we have a clear preference for the former, but we cannot overlook the fact that our audience expects quality movies from all over the world.
 We do not actually have a wide variety of choices, since the major distribution companies in Greece only bring a limited number of films, and what is even more worrying is that this number is decreasing every year. If we were to take a risk, by trying to bring a film of our liking and distribute it ourselves, the results could potentially be catastrophic for a single cinema. However, it is very likely that we will attempt to do it, probably as a member of a group of three or four arthouse theatres. 
 Undoubtedly, the digitization that took place recently will help us diversify our programming significantly, and increase the number of European films annually.

How is the audience of the open air cinema different from your regular audience?

The open air cinemas in Greece are a tradition that goes back to ancient times. The weather in Greece contributes to this unique experience, which is completely different from that of a regular cinema. People from all age groups are very fond of these open air screenings.

Generally speaking, comedy and adventure appeal more to the open air cinema audience, and that is because the collective spirit and interaction are particularly enhanced there. The young generation of cinemagoers is better informed thanks to the Internet, thus more willing to try its luck with less known filmmakers and actors. As exhibitors, we have to strengthen this trend, and keep on giving our best in educating our audiences, so that they can appreciate innovative independent productions, which most of the times come from Europe.

Could you describe the European films market in Greece, especially in Athens?

The bleak economic situation in Greece during the last years has put its mark on the  market, with admissions dropping significantly. Film piracy and the general negative state of mind of the population are additional aggravating aspects of the limited local market that contribute to a highly explosive situation. I firmly believe that only if the standard of living for the average citizen improves, will we see a resurgence of the interest for cinema. Nevertheless, Greeks have always been outgoing and interested in cinema as a form of entertainment.

Tell us more about your experience as a jury member in KVIFF?

To experience such a great event "from the inside" for the first time, and observe the outstanding talent of so many young people of the industry really touched and impressed me. I can say with complete certainty, judging from the films I watched, that the future of European Cinema is in safe hands. I learned a lot of useful information about how someone can bring a film in his own country, which is much easier and more straightforward than I initially believed it would be. I also had the chance to discuss with directors and actors who enlightened me about the difficulties but also the pleasure of making a film. My conclusions are that film festivals are of vital importance for people of the cinema industry and cinemagoers alike, as they create a suitable context and atmosphere for films to be "embraced" by cinema loving audiences.

Interview led by Flora Anavi