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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Cinema-Houses of Kolkata

In the recent past, I have picked up, like most Kolkatans, the habit of watching movies at the multiplexes. The chain of multiplexes - Inox, Fame, Adlabs - rule the roost in all the metros and Kolkata has been no exception. The multiplex culture has hit us late (not counting the pioneering State-sponsored effort called Nandan, a standalone film cum cultural centre that came up way back in 1985), compared to some other Indian metro cities, but now we are all used to it and have adopted it in style.
Movie-going now comes with add-on options - luxury shopping, dining and pubbing, to name a few.
But, in my childhood, and even a few years back, watching movies in Kolkata meant visiting the single screen theaters of all shapes and sizes, in all kinds of localities. Watching movies in these cinema halls, better referred to as 'Cinema Houses' by the elite and the intellectuals, meant soaking in the ambience of cross-cultural traditions, and taking a peek at the cross-section of society, unified only by their love for cinema. The cinema-houses, needless to assert, were open to all, irrespective of race, caste or class. As the patrons were from all sections of the society, the audience had quite an egalitarian and representative character.
One of the reasons multiplexes are replacing single-screen theatres in the city is that people are becoming more affluent. The exorbitant prices charged at the multiplexes deter the not-so-affluent to watch movies there, at the same time extra comfort and cutting edge sound & projection systems make movie viewing a delight for the connoisseur. Thankfully, after the multiplex boom, some halls like Priya and Menoka have been wonderfully renovated, without letting the entry prices soar to the skies. It seems quite an irony that, financially, single-screen theaters are difficult to run. The market dynamics have changed so much that many of these spacious single screen cinama-houses started resembling like the dinosaurs that had to be edged out by the plexes.
Now, on a personal note, maybe with just a tinge of lament for the bygone era, here is the list of cinema-houses of Kolkata which I have been to, till date. Incidentally, some of these just remain in the oldtimers' nostalgia, as they now cease to be; sprawling malls and shopping arcades have come up in their place. Some are still very much functional and some have come back in business after a hiatus.

New Empire
Minerva (renamed: Chaplin)
New Cinema
Ahindra Mancha


iman said...

hi buddy!!!

wonderful post, like most of the Kolkatans i also like to watch movies in multiplexes because of the wave-sound, beautiful projection and the movie viewing experience is completely different from the single screen! but on personal note i'd like to share that watching movie in single-screen theater is just wow for me, almost thousand audiance sitting before a giant screen to watch a single movie is a larger than life experience for me!!! i wish from all the demolished single screen that you enlisted 'Lighthouse' is still running...

sakagaze's laziest student said...

i loved the single-screen theaters. and would prefer to go there than to any multiplex. reason: not because of any nostalgia. but most of them have excellent mouth-watering veg patties :).

Anirban Halder said...

Wonderful post. It's nicer to read the reader comments.

To me multiplex represents high standards of operation, but they don't have the emotional connect (they don't even allow you to carry a water bottle inside). Also it just isn't meant for the middle class as it doesn't offer value-for-money that is an essential yardstick for any offering to this group.

Where does the progressive middle class go then? Well, to theatres like Priya, Menoka, Pushpashree and Star Theatre who have kept up with times. But the options are too few. Wish other single-screeners also followed their way. Being in the industry I know for sure that single-screeners are quite viable, buddy. One just needs the will to run it and market it properly incl. listening to the customers.

arif ali said...

It is very interesting to see that you have been to so many cinema-houses of Kolkata..... quite a cine-buff you must be!
Many of the cinema-houses are unique in terms of the ambience they offer. It is indeed a lament to think that many such halls are no longer there!