On one hand city seems to be busy in welcoming branded multiplex cinemas but on the other hand the single screen cinemas are dying. Single screen cinemas that were once thronged by audience in large numbers are struggling due to many reasons. Some have already closed their doors since they faced heavy losses.
They were once the most celebrated source of entertainment that introduced the city to movies from Bollywood, Hollywood and Pollywood. But now, no one cares for them albeit they offer a magnificent movie experience than the cinemas of a multiplex.
The government may have taken away entertainment tax from these cinemas but the owners and managers still have to face the struggle. Most single screens have more than 1000 seats but only few seats get occupied. Management of these cinemas brought to the notice of HT team that they hardly to do any business since their cinemas are not getting any audience due to which most of time they have to cancel the shows.
"There was time when only cinema showcased one movie with only 4 shows in a day but today one movie is being shown all the multiplex cinemas which makes about more than 40 shows in a day of the movie. Shockingly, more such multiplexes are about to open in the coming months which will shatter us completely", says Amritpal Singh Bhatia, Manager of New Rialto cinema. "Government should make efforts to promote the old cinemas that need attention rather than galvanizing new cinema centers", adds Bhatia.
Om Prakash, who is managing Adarsh Cinema since last 40 years says that government has turned a blind eye to the single screens. "I understand that people are enthralled towards branded cinemas since they are more comfortable but if we will not have any funds, how can we upgrade our cinemas to attract audience. Simply taking off entertainment tax does not help", says Prakash.
Sangam Cinema's owner, Parmod Mehra shared that since everyone cannot afford the expensive multiplex tickets, the single screens offer tickets at a very low price which ranges between Rupees 30 to 70. "During the first week of a new film, we do get audience but not as good as those old times. However, we are happy to cater to people who cannot afford the expensive tickets". Aanam Cinema's manager opines that quality of cinema has also dwindled and piracy levels are touching the sky. He proudly announced names of movies that gave great business such as Love Story, Kabhi Kabhi, Aasha to name a few.
"If single screen cinemas upgrade themselves as per the latest cinema standards then who will not like to go there since they offer a grand experience", says Pinder Kaur, a housewife who has unlimited old cinema memories to share. "I can never forget those days when i used to see every new movie with my cousins. We used to stand in the line for long hours to get the ticket and i don't think we have missed any cinema of the city where we have not seen any movie", adds Kaur.
Paramjit Kaur, a teacher bewails, "Multiplex cinemas may have arrived in the city but their expensive tickets cannot be afforded by everyone. However, single screens tickets have always catered to every level of the society and if single screens die, major part of the society may get disconnected from experiencing the movie culture at cinema houses".
"Cinema should be versatile which should cater to every level of society. Secondly, piracy must be discouraged which not only affects single screens but also branded cinemas. Thirdly and most importantly if single screen cinemas are well maintained, everyone will look forward to watch movies there. For instance, Raj Mandir in Jaipur enthralls great audience for the same reason". - Aman Dhaliwal, Bollywood and Pollywood actor
"The audience today wants quality that single screens do not provide. So, how do they expect audience in large numbers. They need to match their quality according to branded cinemas and secondly, piracy must be stopped at any cost". -Sardar Sohi, Veteran Pollywood film actor
Technology made work easy but still no business:
Pritam Singh who works at Adarsh cinema from last 48 years feels that his work life has turned easier since the new projector replaced the old one. "There were two old projector sets in which reels were used and with the support of the carbon sticks that produced light, movies were showcased", says Singh. He says the operating process was arduous which involved first of all loading the reels followed by checking the carbon sticks (if appropriate as per the reel). Then finally projector is turned on and when carbon starts to produce light.
The old projector involved lot of manual work whereas the new projector is more like a DVD which requires automatic handling. The operator simply plays the movie that is released through a satellite from the distributor.
However, he concluded by saying that technology has simplified his work process and has raised the screening quality but opines that single screens are struggling to get audience and hence make no business.
When asked if he misses working with old projector, he opined that old is gold and added, "It will remain special for me forever since i started my work life with it and i keep cleaning it whenever i get time".
Dead city cinemas:
Gagan, Maya, Nandan, Ashok, City Lite, Heritage Chitra, Prakash and many more may fall in the same category if we look at their present scenario.
Multiplex cinemas of the holy city: Big Cinemas (4 Screens), Cinepolis (4 Screens), Fun Cinemas (4 Screens) and many projects in the pipeline.