ATHENS – The Acropolis might not be for sale, but it is for rent. Desperate for cash and looking at every possible option, except going after tax evaders, Greece is now offering what was once a taboo site – the Acropolis – for rent to film crews and photographers, and throwing in the site of the ancient Oracle of Delphi and the famed Cape Sounion temple as well. Hollywood and other filmmakers have long tried to get access to the Acropolis, especially for movies, but it has mostly been off-limits until now.
Screenwriter Nia Vardalos, known for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, got permission to film at the site for My Life in Ruins, which turned out to be a perfect description for how the film was received. She said there were many restrictions in trying to get permission to film on the Acropolis, as Greek Reporter noted previously. “I hope that we set an example in that we went and we shot and didn’t break anything,” she said. Director Francis Ford Coppola was also allowed to use the site and musician Yianni had a concert filmed at the adjacent Herod Atticus theater.
The government has approved a cheaper pricing plan meant to lure film crews and photographers to its historic attractions — including the home of the Parthenon. The Greek Culture Ministry slashed the cost of a one-day film shoot at the Acropolis by more than half, from more than $5,000 a day to about $2,050. The rate for photographers was cut by roughly one-third, from $385 a day to $256. The reduced rates come with a plan to speed up approval of the permits.
The site would also be made available for demonstrators to rent, along with other commercial ventures, officials said. The first spot open under the new plan is the 2,500-year-old Acropolis overlooking Athens. Other spots covered by the plan include Delphi, home of the oracle, and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Using state-produced photos of the world-renowned attractions will also come at a deep discount, with the price dropping from about $130 to around $40.
The ministry intends to use the anticipated flow of new cash for upkeep of the sites, adding that it would impose strict conditions on anyone taking advantage of the cheaper rates. The ministry’s budget has been cut by 20 percent since Greece asked for international rescue loans nearly two years ago to keep from defaulting, as it was being crushed by a staggering $460 billion debt created by generations of packing public payrolls with political hires in return for votes.
The previous prices were “excessive” and prevented groups from being able to use images of Greece, George Andreas Zannos, an adviser to the ministry, told Bloomberg news agency. Greece is trying to squeeze more money out of its monuments as the government battles to avert a debt default and collapse of the country’s economy. Greece had been pressured by Germany, which is putting up most of the bailout rescue money, to lease or even sell sites such as the Acropolis and various islands.
The cost to use pictures of state-owned sites and museums in publications, from art history books and encyclopedias to tourist guides and magazines, was cut to as low as $38 per shot from $127, based on statements dated October 2005 and January this year from the ministry in Athens. A list of monuments such as the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion will be included in a $76 per shot category, according to the new price-list. All categories will now carry discounts after the first 10 photographs. Before, said Zannas, “publishers refrained from publishing books with images of archaeological content and museums” and sites lacked guides and books with images. All revenues raised will be used by the ministry, he said.
While there have been frequent strikes shutting down archaeological sites, receipts from visits to museums and archaeological sites rose 5.3 percent to $52.4 million in the first nine months of last year, according to the Athens-based Hellenic Statistical Authority. The ministry is also working on speeding up the process of obtaining a permit, which hindered film production companies from using locations in Greece in the past, Zannas said. Greece is notorious for bureaucratic red tape and making it difficult for businesses to operate or films to be shot, leading some directors to find sites in other countries that they can substitute for Greece.