By Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ATHENS, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Greece's capital is transformed into a giant outdoor cinema each summer during the Athens Open Air Film Festival over the past seven years offering locals and visitors a cost free "escape" during the hot evenings.
From June to September, film lovers are offered a unique opportunity to watch quality movies against the backdrop of more than a dozen distinctive monuments, pedestrian areas and parks, always free of charge.
Terraces of museums, central squares, even beaches- for first time this year, were transformed into outdoor cinemas by the organizers of the Athens Open Air Film Festival and the CINEMA magazine.
More than 12,000 people have attended the screenings so far this summer.
The audiences' enthusiastic response to the experiment was beyond expectations, Loukas Katsikas, the festival's artistic director told Xinhua on Wednesday night before the screening of the 1984 classic "Passage to India" at the National Archaeological Museum.
Katsikas and his team chose 21 classic quality movies to screen across the capital this summer. Some of the films are screened in Greece for the first time. They include Hollywood award-winning masterpieces, Greek films and little-known "diamonds" of the seventh art made throughout the world. They focus on films that are rarely screened in cinemas or TV.
"People are eager not only to watch quality cinema as we present it out on streets, squares and museums, but old classic movies. The films we screen are old, classic films we have seen and we want to see again on the big screen, films that younger generations discover for first time. This is an experience we wish to offer them," he explained.
Both the organizers and film lovers said it is not the ticket-free factor of the festival which has made it successful in the years of the seven-year debt crisis, but the experience of watching good movies under the stars at sites which are not often used for such events.
Open air cinema during summer time is a century-old tradition which is an integral part of Greeks' cultural identity.
In particular for representatives of the older generations among the audience on Wednesday, the Athens Open Air Film Festival provides a "nostalgic escape to the past", Katsikas noted.
"There is a sense of belonging again to a group, participating in a shared experience, like the experience of watching cinema this way," he said.
"It gives us the sense of communicating with other people. It gives us great joy seeing other people like us who are so interested in watching quality films and taking part in all these events which really give a breath of life to Athens during the summer," Konstantina T., one of the festival's fans told Xinhua.
Konstantina, Liana Michelaki, Helen and many more follow the festival for several years. They consider it as an "oasis" in Athens during the summer.
"We follow the festival every year and we have seen the best films. It is a great atmosphere for those of us who stay in the city for long," Michelaki said.
"It is very interesting because there are many old pictures we can't see anywhere," Helen B. added.
Stratos Opounidelis, a younger fan, enjoyed at least three screenings this summer and has invited his friends to join in.
"It is an opportunity to watch movies we would most likely not watch, because they are old movies or from other countries, various productions. In parallel it is a chance to get acquainted with parts of the city which we may have not visited before," he told Xinhua.