Photographer's Note

The Sikiarideion Hall (or just the Rex Theatre) was designed in 1935 by the architects Leonidas Bonis and Vassilis Kassandras. The 34-metre-tall building, whose facade is inspired by the American style popular at that time, houses three theatres. The Rex Theatre opened in 1937 as home to the Marika Kotopouli Company. In 1982, the Kotopouli Theatre was destroyed by fire, and in 1987 it was designated a listed building by the Minister of Culture. Since 1993 it has been used by the Greek National Theatre. It has circle and stalls seating, 15 boxes and a gallery. The stage is 18.9 metres wide and 12.85 metres deep, making it the largest in Athens, while the auditorium is 17 metres high.
When the excellent Art Deco building was erected at Panepistimiou street in the 1930s, the Athenians called a skyscraper due to its similarity to the skyscrapers of New York. At the ground floor of the building, destined to entertain, operated Rex cinema, on the first floor the Kotopouli theatre and on the basement the Sineak cinema of news and children’s films. The building suffered serious damages from a fire in 1982, and after five years it passed to the Ministry of Culture and today it houses stages for the National Theatre.
Simos, Filaertos and Alekos Sikiaridis returned to Athens from a trip to New York back in the early 1930s full of new ideas about show business and the new, ultra-modern palaces of entertainment that were rapidly changing American cities. These ideas – and the brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit – eventually resulted in the Rex venue in downtown Athens, a building hailed as a slice of New York in the Greek capital.
Now, almost 82 years after its January 22, 1937 inauguration, the Rex is indelibly linked to the country’s entertainment history and is still an active force thanks to the Greek National Theater. Back in the day, the construction of such a large venue raised eyebrows: It had the Rex cinema on the ground floor, the 1,400-seat Kotopouli Theater right above it and, at the basement level, the 700-seat Sineak movie theater.
The project cost a lot of money for the time and, according to Elizabeth Sikiaridi, an architect who has studied her family’s history extensively, the brothers were able to raise the cash from their textile import-export business in Beirut. She says that their decision to go ahead with the investment was probably also influenced by Spyros Skouras, a Greek who was a major film producer in the United States and was looking for new venues to show films. “The Sikiaridis brothers later turned the Rex cinema over to Skouras,” says the architect.


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Additional Photos by Chris Koulis (chrisg76) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 23 W: 0 N: 222] (1138)
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