iconimg Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mehakdeep Grewal, Hindustan Times
PATIALA, September 29, 2013
Once known as the 'hub of Malwa cinema', the city's single screens are on the verge of closure as multiplexes have lured away their audience. Of the seven single screens in the city, Harbans and Rakhra have already ceased operations due to a sharp decline in the number of patrons.

The city's oldest movie theatre Malwa, established in 1939, now screens only old movies as the owners do not want to shell out money to buy new prints.

The theatre, spread over 20,000 square yards, is lying in shambles, with broken furniture and cobwebs. Though it has been on the market for the past 12 years, no buyer has expressed interest in the property.

Another prominent landmark, the 62-year-old Phul theatre too has lost its glory. The theatre's general manager Avinash Goyal said that while the theatre once used to screen four shows a day and could seat 900, now only three shows are screened, and seating capacity has been reduced to 600.

“There was a time when we had a full house for all our shows, and employed 72 people. Today, we are left with only 15. Hardly any income is generated, the bills keep mounting, and we find it very difficult even to pay salaries,” he added.

The high cost of maintenance and low income also has single screen owners upset.

“Earlier, the government had imposed too many taxes and restrictions on the entertainment industry. Today, even when they have reduced the taxes, the single screen owners cannot afford to showcase new movies,” said a theatre owner.  

Local moviegoers rued that films have become inaccessible, especially in terms of ticket rates. Parvinder Kaur resident of Lahori Gate said, “For common man, watching a movie on the single screen burns a hole in the pocket, with expensive parking, food and tickets, as there is no fixed rate. Owners vary the amount according to the crowd. The administration too does not keep a watch.”

Rajbha Road resident Hemraj Singh said, “One has to shell out at least `1,000 now to watch a film with the family in a multiplex. Single screens are in such a shabby state that one cannot even think of visiting them. The only option left is to watch pirated movies on DVDs at home, or wait for the films to be screened on television.”

The Mall road, which once wooed film lovers, is fading away from the map of cinema houses, as all three single screen theatres located there are being forced to shut down.

Speak out:

Earlier, a balcony ticket used to cost 75 paise, and seats were reserved for women. Though today a balcony ticket costs only `50, people still prefer to go to multiplexes
Amarjeet Singh ticket seller

Though we have installed new machines for satellite movie screening, we are not expecting to attract more people, as they are ready to shell out more in multiplexes instead of visiting single screens
Daljeet Singh head projector operations

If owners renovate the theatres and screen new movies, audience will come. The miserable condition of theatres is responsible for the shift. The government should help
Amanpreet Singh resident of Anand Nagar

Earlier, two to four men used to operate projectors, but new technology has made most of them redundant and machine operators have been shunted out
Gurbaksh Singh, projector operator

Hardly any income is generated by single screens, even as the costs keep mounting. We have had to reduce seating capacity and lay off employees
Avinash Goyal, general manager of Phul theatre