Three years ago, Ritz Cinema at Kashmere Gate - one of the oldest movie threatres in the city - downed shutters because of falling occupancy that hit rock bottom that year. Everyone thought Ritz had falen to the multiplex onslaught.
But on Friday, the cinema - a prominent Walled City landmark for over 80 years - opened its doors once again, with a 'new look'. The renovated cinema's facade has been painted red and blue instead of grey and white earlier, the lobby has new paint and tiles, it also has a new sound and projection system. Its 576 seats too have been refurbished, and the hall, which was air-cooled earlier, is now airconditioned."We were suffering huge losses. When we decided to close the cinema three years ago, we did not know whether to renovate it or sell it. But last year, the family decided after two-year deliberations to renovate it for sentimental reasons," says Virender Narain Seth , 70, whose father took over the cinema in 1942.
His family, Seth says, also owns Jagat Cinema and Novelty Cinema, which are in a lease dispute with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Seth's office attached to the lobby of the hall is a reminder of good old days. It has silver jubilee trophies of films such as Hamraaz, Kaalia, Noorie, Pyar Jhukata Nahin, Naseeb, etc.
"No film can hope to achieve a silver jubilee these days. I need at least 50 movies to run the cinema for a year, which is quite a challenge," he said.
The cinema has also revised its ticket rates (it still issues paper tickets) which were earlier in the range of R30-Rs. 55. Now, the minimum price of a ticket has been fixed at Rs. 35.
A seat in one of the four boxes, which old timers say were quite popular with families and couples looking for privacy, will cost Rs. 100.
According to some old movie enthusiasts, Ritz was a posh cinema in the 1930-40s. It was an important part of the city's social life which revolved around Kashmere Gate, a favourite entertainment, shopping and eatingout destination before Connaught Place was built in the 1930s.
"It was the only cinema which had a bar and a billiards table on the first floor," said Seth.
"The cinema was quite popular with the elite of the Civil Lines and attracted a lot of English movie buffs, especially Anglo-Indians who lived in Kashmere Gate area," said RV Smith, Delhi's classic chronicler and the author of The Delhi That No-one Knows.
"We have reopened Ritz with latest technology while retaining its old world charm. We plan to renovate and open Jagat cinema too," said Seth.