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Bollywood faces crisis in New Jersey

The seven-screen theatre which is closing, is a cultural niche where 60 Indian movies are screened a year.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 12:49 IST

Bad news for Bollywood fans residing in New Jersey and New York as seven-screen movie house CinePlaza is on the verge of closing down.

"This theatre is like the lifeblood of Indian entertainment; it is a home to us," said Vijay Shah, the owner of CinePlaza. Shah saved the theatre once but this time chances are dim.

Shah's multiplex, located in an underground parking garage has been cast in doubt after the building's owner got approvals to demolish the theatre and replace it with a 29-storey residential and commercial tower, reported

Shah, who has already been through a relocation mess, when the theatre's old home was shut down in January this year, is in a dilemma. He said he thought the property's financial troubles were over.

The theatre represents a unique cultural niche where Shah screens about 60 Indian films a year, including eight or 10 blockbusters that sell as many as 15,000 tickets per show.

CinePlaza is the largest Indian theatre on the East coast, with a capacity of about 1,300 seats. The closing of the theatre will hugely disappoint the locals.

The owners of the property, Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Companies, planned its redevelopment Wednesday when the North Bergen council approved rezoning the property.

The new zoning would permit a 25-storey residential tower with up to 350 units, and a four-storey commercial and retail base.

However, the other tenants in the shopping centre, including a ShopRite and Bally's gym, will be not be affected by the redevelopment plan.

The centre was built seven years ago. Township officials said the developers have not given any timeline for when a formal application may be filed.

Forest City representatives were not available for comments, but township officials said the developers stated the theatre was the only part of the shopping centre that was unprofitable.

Shah said Starplex officials told him the theatre has been in the black since Oct, largely because audiences brought in by the Indian theatre have fattened concession sales and cut down on nuisance crimes that used to plague the building.

Still, Shah says he has always known that his lease is subject to only a 30-day termination clause, and he says he has begun a half-hearted search for a new home.

But he said theatres are hard to come by and larger chains will sometimes rent out individual screens in profit-sharing agreements, but there's nothing like having a theatre of his own.

"It's a very risky proposition. That's why you don't see so many of these," said Shah.

First Published: Dec 25, 2006 12:49 IST