Movie theater Orion

Helsinki with its mix of small town and urban atmosphere is a cinematic city as seen in films by Aki Kaurismäki and Peter von Bagh for example. Compared to many other European capitals, Helsinki has quite few cinemas, dominated by Finnkino, here as elsewhere in the big cities of Finland. There are, however, a lot of film festivals and events, e.g. Love & Anarchy and DocPoint. There are also audiences for the smaller, specialized events. A couple of new independent cinemas have opened recently, Kino Sheryl, Teatteri Union and Korjaamo Kino. 

Orion is a must go-to place for any cinema lover who lives or travels to Helsinki. Designed by architect Martti Välikangas, it is a beautiful one-screen cinema in the art deco style. It used to be called  "Bio Athena", and was founded in 1927.  Located on Eerikinkatu 15, people still come to admire its lobby with grandiose pillars (that give a faux sense of perspective) and the delicate details of its interiors. Orion is currently the oldest cinema in Helsinki.

What is special about the film scene in Helsinki is that people don’t compete with each other: newcomers are welcome and people try to help each other out.

The Finnish Film Archive took over the cinema over 30 years ago in 1984.  Before that, the film archive was screening films in different cinemas around the city. Nowadays the film archive is part of a larger organization called the National Audiovisual Institute (operating under the Ministry of Education and Culture), but the aim of Orion's programming is still the same: to show interesting films to all kinds of audiences and keep its film history alive.  Audiences come to see their old favorites, but also discover new films, forgotten gems, as well as films from all over the world.

You can really transport yourself to another era when you come see a film here. A couple of years ago all of Helsinki cinemas were digitized, so now, to the great joy of many, Orion is one of the very few places in Finland where you can still watch 35mm films. They still have new technologies installed as well, for screening new films and also screening digitally restored films.

=> InsideOut Helsinki "coup de coeur": Orion's wonderful staff is also a major part in what makes this cinema so special. Most of the ushers, ticket sellers, and projectionists have worked with them for years and are an integral part in creating a sense of community in the cinema.

Orion's aim is to keep the programming versatile. They are the only cinema that screens old films regularly i.e. classic films, rare masterpieces, retrospectives from major auteurs and also not-so-well-known filmmakers. Nowadays the cinema also brings in new films that don’t get distribution in Finland otherwise. And of course, sharing the Finnish film heritage with their audience is an ongoing task.

=> Good to know : In recent years, film events have become a major attraction in Orion, especially sing-along screenings, such as Sound of Music, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease. It goes to show that cinemas are not just places to see films, they are also places for people to gather and meet each other and experience things together. There’s a sense of community that you don’t get watching films at home on a small screen.

What to look forward to in 2016 :  
  •  In February, classic comedy screenings, e.g. Buster Keaton
  • The Agnès Varda retrospective, one of the first New Wave directors in France
  • Orion's spring sing-along screenings
  • A spectacular evening around Moulin Rouge, where the cinema is collaborating for the first time with burlesque artists. 
  • The annual Fashion Film Festival Vintage in April, focusing on important costume designers.
  • Programming of Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice.
  • In April as well, there will be films from the French actress and filmmaker Musidora accompanied by an experimental orchestra formed by students from the University’s Department of Musicology.

=> InsideOut Helsinki recommends Orion's ciné-concerts, i.e. silent film screenings with live music.

How about summer programming? Finns don’t go to the cinema a lot during the summer, but Orion keeps its doors open. As part of its summer season, which starts in May, they are doing a tribute to the late great David Bowie.

=> Good to know: the cinema will be 90 years old next year—which is quite a legacy. Hopefully it will continue to be a safe haven for films and film lovers for many years to come. 

Further information: 

Elokuvateatteri Orion
Address: Eerikinkatu 15, Kamppi, Helsinki
National Audiovisual Institute:

Adults: 6,50 €
Children under 12 years: 3 €
Club card: 5 €


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