Delhi’s Regal to bring down curtain with Raj Kapoor’s Sangam and Mera Naam Joker
Delhi’s iconic Regal cinema shuts down on Thursday after pulling through for 84 years. It was a popular hall where the likes of Raj Kapoor and Nargis attended premieres. Owners say their dwindling income made it impossible to keep it running.Updated: Apr 03, 2017, 17:36 IST
Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker and Sangam will be the last two movies to be shown at Delhi’s 85-year-old Regal cinema hall that is closing down on March 30.
One of the owners of the hall, Vishal Choudhary, said that he received many requests and fan mails requesting them to screen Raj Kapoor’s movies as the hall was his favourite. He is said to have visited the theatre regularly and hosted premieres of several films released under the banner of RK films, including Sangam that released in 1964 and Mera Naam Joker, first screened in 1970.
The hall that is currently playing Anushka Sharma-starrer Phillauri will show Mera Naam Joker in the evening at six and Sangam at 9pm on Thursday.
Regal Cinema in Connaught Place was the first theatre in the area opened in 1932 by Sir Sobha Singh.
Called the New Delhi Premier Theatre in its early days, Regal may return as a multiplex with four auditoria. According to the owners, they are trying to get permission from agencies concerned to build a multiplex at the same spot.
“The facade will not be changed as the building is a heritage structure but inside there will be major changes including a new design of the hall, better seats, new toilets and canteen,” said Choudhary.
The corridors and the staircase of the hall is lined with black and white photographs of actors Dev Anand, Meena Kumari, Nargis, and Raj Kapoor.
“Raj Kapoor and Nargis would spend time a lot of time here. Kapoor often sat through the premieres of his films. The theatre was decorated and rituals were performed before the start of every film. Every show then was house full in advance for at least a week,” said Roop Ghai, manager.
Choudhary said he has got 60% of the proposal to build a multiplex cleared. “We have got the no-objection certificate from fire department and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as it is a heritage site. Our designs have been approved by Delhi Urban Arts Commission,” he told Hindustan Times.
“It will, however, take at least a year before the work begins as we have to take permission from several other departments and it takes a long time to complete these things,” he said. Hindustan Times had reported on December 22 that the cinema was on the verge of closing due to severe cash crunch aggravated by demonetisation.
Choudhary said it was time to fold up Regal as they had not been making money for many years now. “Business has been down for a decade and last month’s collection of Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya film was also not very good.” He said the cinema hall has been unable to recover operating costs over the past two years. “Half the money we get from tickets goes to the distributor. It costs us over Rs 2 lakh a week to run a show.”
Choudhary also said that they didn’t want to take any chances after the collapse of some buildings in Connaught Place recently. The New Delhi Municipal Council has asked the owners of buildings in the area to prove structural capability. This is another reason why he decided to close the theatre and rebuild it.
The first and second floors of the Regal Building were sold to Madame Tussauds in 1996, so the famed wax museum could open its 22nd branch in Delhi. The ground floor remains with the owner.