Orpheus ~ The Open Air Cinema of Kos

  • Posted on: July 21, 2010
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We just got back from 10 days on the Greek Islands that culminated in an amazing Greek Wedding in Crete.  1,762 images were shot during that time, but let’s start with the first adventures on the island of Kos.
Ancient and Modern Greeks love to be entertained.  It is no surprise that the few buildings that have survived from Ancient Greece are either Theaters or Temples.
America has her drive-ins theaters that started in the 1930’s; Greece introduced their first Open Air Cinemas or Therini Kimimatografiin in 1919.  Like the drive-in, they went out of fashion in the 60’s-80’s.  But now, the romance of a movie under the stars, or even under the Acropolis, is back and Greeks and tourists alike are flocking to these nostalgic venues.
Once Nancy and I had checked into Hotel Americana, we strolled towards the city center of Kos and stumbled upon The Orpheus outdoor cinema.  It was early afternoon and a women was struggling to open the front gate.  I excitedly approached, probably too much American coming at her too fast, but she slowly understood that we would like to peak inside the theater if possible.  The gate finally clicked open and she let us slip in.  She was coming in to clean the theater in preparation for tonight’s 9pm show.  It was a mess, typical of any movie theater, people left there garbage everywhere after  the show.
But it was beautiful.
Vines, jasmine, and Bougainvillea grew all over the 2 side walls that enclosed what appeared to be an outdoor cafe.  Approximately 80 chairs and 20 tables where set up in front of the beautifully white screen.
Click Click Click.  I turned to Nancy and we immediately knew what we were doing for our first night in Greece.  Going to see……The Prince of Perisa?
You’ve got to be kidding me?  They’re showing a Hollywood Persian Action film in Greece?!
They’ve been enemies for over 2500 years, oh Alexander the Great is surely spinning in his grave!
We got there early for the 11pm show,  I wanted to find the manager and ask if I could set up two tripods and cameras to capture the theater at night, during a long exposure.
The ticket taker pointed me to a man who was smoking a cigarette and chatting with someone right before we walked into the theater.  I showed him my tripods and explained that I’d like to take some pictures of the theater during the movie.  I’d sit in the back and not use flash and promised not to disrupt anyone.
He really didn’t care, as long as I paid for my admission.
So in we went, and I set up in the last row, in front of the concession stand.
Two tripods, two cameras; one digital, and one film.  Hey, I got permission, so why not go all out!
About 30 people were settling into their seats, no one seemed interested in me until the credits started rolling and then an older gentlemen, in broken English, asked me what I was doing.  I told him that I was documenting the theater.  He told me I couldn’t take pictures during the film but I assured him that I had permission and the ticket taker who was now running the concession also backed me up.  He didn’t want to, but he let me be.
I set the film camera to expose…the exposure which you see below was for half the movie or about an hour long.  The quick digital test shots proved that an 8 minute exposure was adequate at f/11.  It was probably in the high 70’s and the mosquitos were now beginning to attack Nancy.  Another beautiful aspect of the Greek Cinema is that they do not dub non-Greek films.
Though I don’t think a good dubbing would have helped The Prince of Persia.
Another thing typical to the Greek Cinema, there is always a halftime.
Usually it is a mad dash to go out for a smoke, but at the outdoor cinema you are allowed to puff as much as you please.
Our friend, who I know think was the projectionist, came down to see me as the 2nd half started.  He told me I definitely had to stop taking pictures.  He was citing that the movie industry owned the rights to the movie and no recordings were permitted.  I showed him the back of my screen and pointed out there were no images being captured, just the white screen and the theater.  The images kind of threw him, but he was determined that I stop and take down my rig, so I did.  I had captured what I came to capture and was now testing out some new compositions and didn’t want to cause a scene.  As we broke down the tripods, the woman from the concession stand sounded like she was telling our friend to chill out.
No worries, I told her, I appreciated the chance to capture the cinema and gave her one of my cards.
As we pass the halfway mark of the summertime, take a look around; lots of Therini Kimimatografi can be found, not only in Greece, but here in America.  So enjoy the magic under the stars!

1 Comment

  1. sandy · July 22, 2010

    We may have our Hyde Park Drive-In but it cannot compare to Kos’s Therini Kimimatografiin. Gorgeous photos – who would even bother looking up at the Prince of Persia. Thank you for always finding and documenting the hidden treasures.