Single screen theatres in Mumbai often fit this stereotype: dingy hallways, cheap tickets, and fans pouring in to catch Salman Khan films. Liberty Cinema at Marine Lines is an exception. The floors are covered with a velvet carpet, the lights on the roof peep from behind wooden carvings, and the corridors are softly lit. The staircase leading to the balcony befits a princess’s show-stopping entry.
The theatre stopped screening in 2012, due to a drop in ticket sales (as multiplexes took over). It reopened with the screening of Dangal, in December 2016. In the four-year gap, Liberty hosted one-act plays and stand-up comedy gigs.
“We wanted to change the process of going for a film to a cinematic event. You come here specifically to watch a film, unlike going to a mall where ample distractions are in place,” says Sohel Kazani, director, Royal Cineasia, a production house, as he gives us a tour of the space.
DID YOU KNOW?
Why it’s called Liberty: Liberty opened in 1949. To honour India’s Independence, the founder, Habib Hoosein, a cotton tradesman, decided to name it Liberty. The Art Deco architecture was commissioned to British architect Ridley Abbott. Liberty is now a Grade 2 heritage site, and a noted Art Deco building (according to libertycinema.com).
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Bicycle Thieves had its India premiere here: Liberty was a popular theatre for premieres till the ’90s. The theatre opened with the premiere of Mehboob Khan’s film, Andaz. In 1994, Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun premiered here. The ticket lines snaked all the way till Marine Lines station, and the tickets were pre-booked till 1996. Liberty also saw the premiere of the first international film to be screened in India — the Italian film, Bicycle Thieves — in 1950.
One of the first Indian theatres with reclining seats: The walls inside are lined with wooden panels. The wood used for the same is Canadian cedar and Burma teak, shipped from Canada and Myanmar respectively. The original seats in the theatre were shipped from the United States of America. Still in use, they were a novelty at the time because they would recline.
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The marquee at Liberty is lit by 200 tube lights: Each light is of 40 volt. The electricity bill, for the marquee, is close to Rs 2lakh per annum.
It now has state of the art technology: The cinema house has recently received a tech upgrade — the projector at Liberty is 33,000 lumens, which is even higher than the ones at multiplexes (around 28,000). This means that, currently, Liberty will screen films in the highest print quality across Mumbai, according to Kazani.