Special Report: Outdoor Sappho Cinema, Lesbos Greece

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Something I have always found enchanting is the different kinds of movie theaters in foreign countries. I’m not terribly fond of the little cineplexes, the little boxes of today. The palatial movie theaters of the past are slowly but surely being torn down and remodeled, sometimes into parking lots. Drive in movie theaters were fun, including running out to get popcorn, and parking the little speaker on the roll up window of the car. These environments have always seemed special to me, the venues which showcase cinema.

The last five years or so I have taken great delight in the "Sappho Cinema" of Skala Eressos, a little outdoor movie theater that has been in existence since 1958 on the island of Lesbos in the Greek Islands. Eressos is the birthplace of Sappho hence the name of the theater. It opens around the third weekend of June and has been run by the Mariolas Family-- Paulos and Niki, and their sons Ignatios and Kostas since 1990. Nothing beats seeing a film in this open air theater to date for me.

The films come from Athens and are usually this years’s hits. Now you may wonder what is so special about seeing these films in a little theater in the Greek Islands. First, the hospitality of the Mariolas—Father Paulos I swear looks like John Marley from The Godfather and Jane Fondas father in Cat Ballou-- and is as sweet as can be. Kostas and Niki work the concession stand and Ignatious runs the movie projector.

To augment the screenings are all the animals that come in droves for the show. First, there are bats, friendly ones that fly above, swallows, a few mosquitoes, ants looking for popcorn, and finally the cats. This summer there was a mother cat and two kittens. Before the show begins they are nowhere to be found, but once the feature starts they begin running across the stage. Now and then mom will get the kids to settle down and watch the show. They were patient for Vera Drake for example, lying on each other and licking each other’s fur. That was in the beginning of the film, till Imelda Staunton started crying all the time. Then they got a bit concerned but stayed put. For Collateral Damage they were all over the place jumping on the speakers, running across the stage. Apparently Tom Cruise excited them. Annette Bening (Being Julia) commanded their attention, they were quite attentive. For Star Wars, they were no were to be found, the special effects sent them to the sidelines. So animals are a pretty good part of the crowd, and seem to be excellent movie critics.

The films are all subtitled in English. I felt a little sorry for the neighborhood Greek kids that came to see Shrek 2 but sure enough pictures are worth a thousand words. They took great pleasure in watching Puss in Boots, and laughed at the Donkey. The kittens loved Shrek. During ntermission you can purchase Greek beer, sodas and potato chips with oregano, and of course they have popcorn. A movie ticket costs roughly 6 euros with one of the most breathtaking ceilings of any movie theater I’ve even seen—the sky with the big dipper and Milky Way. Our feathered and furry friends prove that all kinds of folks go to the movies and for us two legged spectators we all concur this is the greatest show of all!

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Skala Eressos Lesbos Greece.
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Outdoor Sappho Cinema, Lesbos Greece