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Greeks seek ways to bolster local prod'n.

ATHENS According to recent research, Greece will have 25% more screens by 2002.

Over the past four years, multiplexes have been springing up in urban areas of the country while older screens have been undergoing substantial facelifts.

But this year things are different. "There's no `Titanic' this year," a cinema owner says, "and with no `Titanic,' we obviously cannot match last year's record figures of around 11 million admissions across Greece."

French blockbuster "Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar" was this year's greatest success, with around 500,000 admissions, while local hero "The Discreet Charm of the Male Sex" raked in some 200,000 admissions, sustaining the market share of Greek pics at 5%.

Industry analysts suggest that a sharp 20% decrease in box office figures and admissions is only temporary and that things can only get better.

"We had a significant rise in box office, admissions and screens for the past three years," says Greek Film Centre (GFC) president Manos Efstratiadis. "This year, it seems as far as admissions and B.O. is concerned, we are more cautious, gathering strength. Next year things will again be better."

The GFC is currently offering tax rebates to distributors with three or more local productions in their roster.

"It is important that we don't just support local production that is now at around 15 films per year, but that we secure their exhibition, thus avoiding previous mistakes where out of nine or 10 Greek films only two or three found their way to the screens," Efstratiadis says.

The decline in admissions this year has not dampened exhibitors' verve.

After the construction of two multiplexes in Athens and Thessaloniki, the country's two largest cities, Oz exhib Village Roadshow is completing a 20-screen megaplex in western Athens.

"The country is definitely underscreened," says Village Roadshow general manager Charis Andonopoulos. "We are planning some four more multiplexes around Greece," he adds, explaining that the audience has changed since the introduction of multiplexes. "We have changed it from a cinephile audience to a mass audience," he says. Another Village multiplex currently in the works reinforces Andonopoulos' point that cinema has become an issue of lifestyle and not simply entertainment.

"This venue will be in the style of Universal CityWalk," he concludes. Village's total investment in Greece will exceed $160 million over the coming years with the completion of the projects under development. But since last year, Ster Century, a subsidiary of South African exhibitor Ster Kinekor, has made its presence felt through its joint venture with local exhib Assos Odeon.

With a nine-screen multiplex in central Thessaloniki, and an additional one earmarked for Athens, it is expected to give Village a run for its money.

Industry sources claim Village's Thessaloniki venue has suffered more than just the average 20% drop with the appearance of the Ster Platia Assos Odeon multiplex in that city.

With the competition heating up between international exhibitors and a number of independent local exhibs inking sponsorship deals with companies such as Philips and Ericsson and Nescafe to renovate theaters and screens, the choices for Greek moviegoers are widening. The next few years will be crucial in defining the exhibition landscape in a country where screens have suddenly become a valuable asset.
GREECE

Admissions:  8.5 million
Screens:  140(*)
Sites:  90

(*) Athens and Thessaloniki
urban areas, excluding
open-air cinemas operating
during summer

MAIN EXHIBITORS

                     SCREENS     SITES
Village Roadshow        19         2
Ster Assos Odeon         8         1
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Title Annotation:motion picture industry
Comment:Greeks seek ways to bolster local prod'n.(motion picture industry)
Author:GROHMANN, KAROLOS
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Jun 21, 1999
Words:571
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