What We'll Miss About Greece...
For those of you who follow DCGreeks.com, you may have noticed that we haven’t updated the site in a while and even more surprising that we weren’t at the National YAL Conference. After four and eight long years respectively, The Guys @ DCGreeks.com went to Greece for three weeks for the AHEPA Supreme Convention, a whirlwind Greek Island cruise on the Aegean Sea, and a few days to visit virtually all our family that we still have over there. While we won’t bore you with too many details about the AHEPA Convention, we’d like to take a stab at offering a series on what we’ll miss and in some cases won’t miss about Greece.
August 13, 2008
The concept of watching movies outdoors while featured here in the States from time to time has been perfected in Greece. There’s something about watching a movie outdoors even amongst the hustle and bustle of Athens that can take even the most unwatchable film and make it into an interactive experience.
Our first exposure to the phenomena of watching movies of rooftops was going to summer movie theaters in suburban Athens when we were kids. As these movies were typically American movies with Greek subtitles, we felt like we had a distinct advantage over the remainder of the non-English speaking crowd in not having to follow the quickly flashing, often inaccurate subtitling. It was rare to catch a summer blockbuster being shown in the U.S. that summer as these Greek showings were typically three months or more behind the current U.S. box office. But this was the age before the innovations in special effects and sound that make certain movies must see in theaters versus rentals, so we didn’t so much notice or mind the lack of bells and whistles that warrant a $10.50 showing today.
What these theaters lacked in amenities, they made up for in charm and the campiness of the whole experience. We struggle to use the word theaters, because despite the presence of a movie screen and a projector, these theaters, even today, are merely the rooftop of a three story building with a collection of mismatched lawn chairs lined up over concrete, sometimes gravel, with a make shift concession stand in the back. These concession stands though were stocked not just with the popcorn and candy you’d find in a movie theater back home, but roasted nuts, sunflower seeds, and alcohol, not just beer, but liquor as well. Each movie typically features an intermission of at least 5 to 10 minutes, the timing of which during the course of the movie is random. While we always thought that this was a ploy to sell concessions but we noticed this year that there is actually some guy all the way in the back who has to change the reel of film. (We probably couldn’t see the classic ray of light emitting from the projector to the screen because of the clouds of smoke.) /p>
The best part of watching these movies is that these are truly a community experience, in that the surrounding neighbors in the apartments and condos also had a clear view of the movie screen. When a movie was particularly unwatchable, there was usually a chance that the storylines emitting from the neighbors’ balconies were far more interesting. (Typically they involved a lot of yelling in Greek and some lady’s husband getting hit over the head with a frying pan. Not Academy Award winning stuff, but hilarious nonetheless.)
With all that said, not every movie is meant to be seen in a rooftop theater in Greece. This summer we saw posters for The Dark Knight, which was opening in Greece on the same day if not a day earlier than in the United States. Given the debate over whether to see it in a regular movie theater here or to hold out for an IMAX showing, we knew that a true summer blockbuster isn’t meant for an outdoor theater. Conversely even your typical light comedy doesn’t work in Greece either. Imagine trying to accurately subtitle a Vince Vaughn movie for example or anyone else with rapid fire delivery. (And then just for fun add cursing into the mix and be thoroughly disappointed how the same Greek curse word can stand in for a whole host of English profanities.) The perfect movies are that second tier of movies, the ones you might only pay a matinee price to see here, or skip altogether to catch on DVD or a premium movie channel a year later.
We caught perhaps that perfect movie this summer while in Athens. Our cousin and his wife dragged us to see Mamma Mia! on a rooftop theater in the Plaka. This would not have been our first choice of movie -- a chick flick based on the Broadway Musical, based on the songs of ABBA. But the hook of this movie was that it was not only set on a fictional Greek island, but for once actually shot on several Greek islands as well. With the Acropolis as a backdrop on a surprisingly brisk July night in Athens, our cousin, his wife, and three friends of ours from back here who were also in Greece for the AHEPA Convention all paid the 8 Euro ticket price to sit in lawn chairs on a packed rooftop for a 9:00 PM showing. While we thought that the fact the sun had just set coupled with the typical Athens light pollution would make the first part of the movie unwatchable, by the time they made it through the previews the surrounding had darkened up enough to see everything on the screen. Trying to read the subtitles, particularly during the musical numbers, was one of the better parts of the movie, as Greek syntax made lyrics not match up at all with what was being sung on screen. The best part of the screening was seeing a movie based in Greece, while in Greece, with the contrast of Greece’s natural beauty on screen set against the Acropolis, one of the best examples of its ancient architecture. An unduplicated part of the whole experience though was that when the wind blew on screen, the wind blew down from the Acropolis on cue. Try and have your local multiplex beat that.