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Psarokokalo > Audiovisual experiments February 1, 2008

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‘Saliva’ is one of the productions that will be screened at the Second International Short Film Festival Psarokokalo.

New and past technologies lie at the heart of a film festival presenting new audiovisual productions which explore novel approaches in cinema, image, rhythm and narration.

The Second International Short Film Festival Psarokokalo kicks off tonight at the screening hall of downtown hotspot Nixon, running to February 10.

The program includes 65 short films – including fiction, documentaries and animation – by Greek and international directors, tributes to Romanian and Basque cinema, short films by Swedish director Roy Andersson as well as special screenings of selections from the Salford Film Festival and the HollyShorts Film Festival.

Parallel events include an interactive performance, “Patakouna”, on February 5 and 6, an art exhibition and a closing party scheduled for February 8 at Soul Stereo.

Nixon, 61B Agisilaou Street, Athens, tel 210 3462077. For more information > www.psarokokalo.gr 

Greek moviegoers opt for local films November 14, 2007

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Yiannis Smaragdis’s historical drama ‘El Greco’ is ahead in the box-office battle so far.

Recent box office figures, since the season’s “unofficial” start in late August, show that, so far, local audiences prefer to watch local productions as well as family films. Two of the three Greek films that have opened are currently in the box office top five, while the third, despite a generalized attack by the critics, made an impressive debut in the first four days of screenings.

Despite initial hesitation, Yiannis Smaragdis’s “El Greco” has been recognized for its love of the subject matter and the quality of its production. Up to now, the film has sold more than 565,000 tickets. Olga Malea’s “First Time Godfather” is also on the right ticket path. An entertaining story coupled with recent political history references, the movie has attracted 189,000 viewers. Nikos Zapatinas’s “Kiss of Life” which opened last week, is also expected to do well.

Judging from the figures, it seems that audiences are eager to watch Greek films, when the latter are aimed at movie theaters, as opposed to being screened at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

The second element emerging from the recent figures is that family entertainment is a sure bet. The fifth installment of Harry Potter, for instance, reached 400,000 tickets, “Ratatouille” climbed to 270,000 tickets, “Shrek the Third” reached 190,000 tickets, “The Simpsons Movie” notched 125,000 tickets, while recently released “Surf’s Up” has already surpassed 40,000 tickets.

Film genres which have traditionally attracted large audiences to movie theaters, namely action, crime, science fiction or comedy, appear to be on a downward spiral. All this points to the changing habits of moviegoers. The cinema public’s basic core, young people, are now downloading movies from the Internet or picking up counterfeit DVDs.

Top 10 >

  • El Greco : 565,000
  • Harry Potter 5 : 400,000
  • Ratatouille : 270,000
  • Shrek The Third : 190,000
  • First Time Godfather : 189,000
  • The Bourne Ultimatum : 170,000
  • Rush Hour 3 : 140,000
  • The Simpsons Movie : 125,000
  • Zodiac : 120,000

Greece’s first artplex? November 13, 2007

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When the Attica cinema closed, long before its demolition last month, rumor had it that the next big thing was coming. An entrepreneur was looking seriously at turning the cinema on Amerikis Square into the first artplex in Greece.

The plan never came to fruition but the idea of a creating a multiplex that would show art films and other non-mainstream works interested many people.

One of them is Leonidas Papageorgiou, owner of the Trianon and Ilion Cinema, in what was once the flourishing cinema market on Patission Street. He himself never planned to do so, but he did give us a piece of information. “You can smell something in the air,” he said, “nothing more.”

Might Amerikis Square be the starting point? “I don’t think so,” said Papageorgiou. “You must put an artplex in the center of town, and Amerikis Square has not been the center of town for many years. Or in a less central area which has easy access, meaning a metro station.”

There are few plots available downtown. Gazi would meet Papageorgiou’s requirements. The new Film Library is being built on Iera Odos in the same neighborhood, and the people who visit Gazi and nearby Metaxourgeio are potential artplex customers. All that is needed now is an entrepreneur who is willing to take a risk, and a little luck.

Have Greek film multiplexes hit a ticket ceiling? November 13, 2007

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Ten years since the first one opened in Athens

Who would have thought it? Just 10 years since the first cinema multiplex opened in Athens, the historic center in Maroussi has shut down. It is to be made into an office block.

The influx of multiplexes into the Greek market in 1997 signaled a dramatic change on the local scene. In Athens alone, there were 99 new cinema auditoriums; box office receipts more than doubled and brought a night out at the cinema back into fashion. Large towns without film houses suddenly acquired modern multiplexes and access to one of the basic expressions of popular culture.

A small market for the size of the population > The majority of cinemagoers prefer multiplexes, so the crisis affects individual movie houses. Multiplexes are often blamed but it is they that have doubled the number of tickets sold in recent years.

There are many reasons why the original Athenian Village cinema closed down. For instance, it was too close to its larger brother at The Mall. The vigorous development of multiplexes in a virgin market such as that of Greece seems to have come to the end of a stage. None of the three major companies that run multiplexes in Greece, Village Roadshow, Odeon, Ster Cinemas, wants to talk of market saturation but recent examples make it safe to conclude that, despite the addition of new cinema houses, ticket sales have remained worryingly stable.

This is not very good news for a market that is disproportionately small for the size of the population. On average, Greeks go to the cinema slightly more than once a year, compared with three times for the French and four for Americans.

“Demand remains stable, stable at low levels,” explained Odeon Cineplex’s Manager Makis Diamantopoulos. “The market is moving upward, but very slowly, and it concerns mainly Athens, to a lesser extent Thessaloniki, and even less towns in the provinces.”

This is no reason not to celebrate their 10th birthday. Haris Antonopoulos, President and Managing Director of the Village Roadshow group, talked of expectations that have been met: “We have every reason to feel justified. When Village came into the Greek market, ticket sales were at 6-7 million; since then they have doubled to 14 million.”

Yet the market seems to be stuck at 13-14 million tickets and one reason is the lack of many lucrative blockbusters. Antonopoulos wants his company to turn to producing Greek films, at a time when local productions in other European countries bring in 30-40 percent of box office receipts. In Greece, the percentage is far lower, at 5-10 percent.

But stagnation in the Greek market does not mean stagnation when it comes to investment. In Athens, which has supposedly reached saturation point, the market will continue to grow. Village will definitely be at a mall being built on Vouliagmenis Avenue next to the Aghios Dimitrios metro station, and there will be multiplexes in large new malls in Galatsi and Votanikos, next to the planned Panathenaikos stadium. There is also room for development in the southern suburbs, which so far only have the Village complex in Faliron.

Both large and small players in the multiplex market face an insidious rival: the Internet. Being able to download movies from the Internet, often well before their release date at the cinema, would seem to affect all movie houses. Does the fact that viewers aged 12-24, the prime customers of cinemas, multiplexes and others, are more familiar with the Internet make matters worse?

“It depends on how you see ‘going to the cinema,’” commented Diamantopoulos. “If you restrict it to the strictly functional dimension, yes, the Internet is directly competitive. But we don’t go to the cinema just to see a film. There’s a whole social context to it. There’s the before and after, sharing the experience, a whole process is involved in going to the cinema.” He is optimistic.

He thinks there’s a bit of a slump but that it will be absorbed and the market will reach a balance. He cites the example of America: “In the United States, there has been a distinct fall in cinema attendance in recent years, but that was mainly due to very well-organized cable and pay TV. Now that those new products have been absorbed, the public is returning to movies.” And Antonopoulos noted a Greek characteristic: “Regardless of age, Greeks don’t like staying at home.”

Presenting the best of the new November 12, 2007

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At the Thessaloniki Film Festival

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which is celebrating its 48th anniversary this year, will kick off this Friday and run to Sunday, November 25.

In the past 48 years, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which begins this Friday and runs to November 25, has blossomed from a domestic event geared at local industry to a regional force of international stature.

Last year the TIFF featured 230 films and sold 153,000 tickets. Some 100 members of the international press followed the event, and it was attended by about 500 industry representatives from around the globe.

Sponsorships, which account for one-third of the festival’s budget, have risen by approximately 20 percent this year. These are no mean figures under any standards, especially for a country the size of Greece.

Related Links > http://www.filmfestival.gr

Norah Jones’s film debut at the TIFF November 8, 2007

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Wong Kar-wai’s first English-language film, “My Blueberry Nights”, stars Norah Jones as a woman who travels across America trying to get over a breakup.

Hit singer Norah Jones’s film debut will open the 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF) on November 16. “My Blueberry Nights” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, a favorite with the Greek film crowd, has directed Jones in what is also his first English-speaking movie. Jones plays Elizabeth, a woman who has been hurt and is traveling across the USA from city to city, hoping to get over the painful ending of a long-term relationship. She meets various people on the way who have also been scarred by life, played by Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and David Strathairn. They each have their own tragic love story to tell. Through her new acquaintances, the main character finds the strength to cast a fresh look upon her life as well.

Wong’s work is excellent in the setting of the film and in the filming of the details in the love story, which convey deep feelings. One of the highlights and one of the more passionate kisses we have seen in the past few years is the kiss between Jones and Law.

Norah Jones accepted the film director’s unexpected suggestion, although until that moment she had not seen any of his films. She said that when she was on tour, Wong contacted her and asked her if she wanted to make a movie with him. That was when she watched his film “In the Mood for Love” and decided she absolutely trusted him because it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

This year’s Thessaloniki Film Festival will end on November 25, with “Darleeling Limited”, a Wes Anderson film starring Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman.

Related Links > http://www.filmfestival.gr/

TIFF tribute to the late movie director Nikos Nikolaidis October 31, 2007

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Film noir focus at the Thessaloniki Film Festival > 1983’s ‘Sweet Bunch,’ is one of Nikos Nikolaidis’s most popular films. The director, who passed away last September, is the subject of a tribute in Thessaloniki.

Two signature styles in Greek cinema will be the subject of a tribute at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, November 16-25.

The first is dedicated to Nikos Nikolaidis, a cult filmmaker and writer who passed away suddenly in September, before he could see the entire retrospective which he was organizing together with the festival’s management. The tribute to Nikolaidis will feature a complete retrospective, while “Singapore Sling, “Morning Patrol,” “The Thrushes are Still Singing” and “Eurydice BA 2037” will be presented in remastered and digitally enhanced versions.

The film tribute is also accompanied by a special edition of rare material compiled by Mimis Tsakoniatis, as well as the launch of Nikolaidis’s last novel, “A Poke in the Eye of Montezuma,” which is a reminiscence on life in Greece in the 1950s and 60s.

Nikolaidis was born in Athens in 1939 and studied cinema and set design. He started working in the Greek film industry in the early 1960s and his first film was the short “Lacrime Rerum,” which participated in the Cannes Film Festival in 1964. Seven years later, the director’s idiosyncratic style became evident with his first feature film, “Eurydice BA 2037,” a philosophical comment on loneliness that became the aesthetic and thematic precursor of all his later cinematic endeavors. With “The Thrushes are Still Singing” (1979), Nikolaidis made a film that became the emblem for an entire generation, a work of intensely personal politics populated with his typical haunted heroes. Nikolaidis, whether adapting De Sade or borrowing elements from film noir, succeeded throughout his career in remaining faithful to his dark vision of the world.

His references to film noir are frequent and as such the tribute to his work can also be neatly incorporated into a broader tribute to Greek film noir, a genre that is sparsely represented in the local industry. The few Greek noir films that have been made generally tended to follow in the footsteps of their American and French predecessors, but also succeeded in holding strongly up to the comparison.

“Down Dark Paths: Film Noir in Greek Cinema” was curated by film critic Alexis Dermentzoglou and covers 46 years of output with 12 feature length and two short films, produced between 1958 and 2004.