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Box-Office Art

vasilis Vasilis Dimitriou is "the last living movie billboard painter in Greece," reports Liz Alderman in The New York Times (2/27/14). Vasilis is now 78, and has been hand-painting movie billboards since he was 15. His "romanticized images evoke an earlier age of celluloid, movie magazines and cigarette-smoking starlets, incongruous in an age of DVDs and downloads, digital marquees and movies on demand. (images) With "mass-produced printing" readily available, his craft "has been all but snuffed out."

Still, his work resonates with fans like George Athanasopoulous, who says "there is a sameness to everything" these days, but that what Vasilis "does is very special." It’s very special to Vasilis, too. "Painting is always on my mind," he says. "When I finish a poster and put it in the theater, it’s a thrilling feeling, knowing that people will see it and feel some magic … As long as I can keep painting, I’ll do it," says Valsilis, who got his start after getting caught, perched in a tree, trying to catch a film at an outdoor theater.

The theater’s projectionist suggested he "volunteer in exchange for watching films." The manager soon noticed Vasilis’s self-taught talent for artwork and asked him to try his hand at movie posters. His reputation grew until "10 theaters around Athens would commission his work." "Back then," he says, "you would go to the movies in a suit and tie … women wore beautiful dresses" and people would discuss the film during intermission. "Now that’s gone," he laments, but adds: "When I stop breathing is when I’ll stop painting."