Romance of single screens

Multiplexes are the order of the day, but some single screen theatres are fighting back.
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Updated on Sep 08, 2012 01:51 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByFurquan Ameen Siddiqui

One after the other, most singlescreen cinemas are shutting down. This trend of multiplexes started more than a decade ago when PVR (Priya Village Roadshow) revolutionised movie-watching experience by converting the Anupam cinema hall into India’s first four-screen multiplex. Soon, others followed suit.

The iconic Shiela cinema hall in Pahar Ganj, which installed the first 70mm screen in the country in 1961, also recently announced its closure. Hinting at a possible relaunch as a multiplex, its director Uday Kaushish, says, “Cinema has changed with the multiplex boom. The choices given by multiplexes has had an impact on the single screen cinema halls.”

Golcha cinema in Daryaganj, with its fading 1950s art deco charm, is also set for a revamp after remaining unchanged for decades. As is Vishal cinema in Rajouri Garden, a massive 1400-seating capacity theatre, India’s largest movie hall. A recent report on Indian Media and Entertainment Industry by FICCI-KPMG, says: “Despite representing less than 15% of the total screens in India, multiplex screens accounted for a third of the total box office collections in 2011.” Many chains, like PVR, Cinemax and INOX have added around 70 screens in the last year alone.

This surge in smaller screens compelled the already struggling single screen cinemas to change — to single screen cinema cum shopping complexes. If Sanjay Mehta, a film distributor in Delhi-NCR is to be believed this trend is more to do with property values and government’s regulations. “With soaring real estate prices these single screens realised they are sitting on a hot property. Given a chance they will convert their dying single screens into multiplexes.”

Alankar cinemas in Lajpat Nagar, was the first to be redeveloped as 3Cs by reducing the theatre size while giving space to shopping complex. Soon Plaza, Grandlay (now Batra Glitz) and Eros (now Eros One) cinema was redeveloped into mini malls. The rules of Delhi’s master plan require renovated cinema halls to retain a minimum seating capacity of 300 with parking facilities.

However, there are some cinema halls that have stood the test of time. PVR Priya and Delite cinemas have retained the original format while refurbishing. Shashank Raizada, MD, Delite cinemas, says, "If the cinema hall is visually appealing and equipped with modern technology, the audience will come back."

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