The classic single-screen theatres in India, which usually used to run houseful with people selling tickets outside in black, are gradually disappearing. Though some transformed into multiplexes to survive, there are others who still offer a walk through memory lane and give free rein to nostalgia.
“We used to live in Paharganj and it was a ritual to catch every new release at the Shiela Cinema. Almost every weekend we went there – even if we had to watch the same movie again,” says Pankaj Kapoor (49), a resident of west Delhi.
“I still remember that as kids, we were so crazy about going to these theatres that we used to watch the same movie in two days – first half on one day and the second half on another so that we were not out of home for too long and our parents wouldn’t guess where we were,” he says. “Today, everything has changed – online booking, fancy food, modern seating, etc., but I have to say that the real fun of watching a movie was back then,” Kapoor adds.
Central Delhi’s famous single screen theatre Shiela Cinema in Paharganj was shut after 56 years in April last year. Established in 1961, the theatre faced financial losses amid competition from the various multiplexes that have come up in the city. One of the biggest single screen cinema halls in Delhi, Shiela was known for its trendy interiors even back then.
Shiela is now turned into a multiplex, just like several other single screen halls in the city – including Plaza, Odeon, Sangam, Satyam and Rivoli.
Before Shiela’s closure, another iconic theatre, Regal in Connaught Place was also shut in March 2017. However, unlike Shiela, Regal did not re-open as a multiplex and is permanently shut. Regal’s closure was a grand affair, which saw a houseful theatre on its last day with the screening of Indian actor-director Raj Kapoor’s films Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Sangam (1964).
Lined up with movie posters one on the other, single-screen theatres in India are gradually disappearing. During their days of splendor, these cinema halls were always houseful with tickets for each show selling out in minutes. There are some, which have closed their gates permanently and others revamped to meet the modern day requirements; however there are still some theatres that will take you back in time!
Maratha Mandir and Gulshan Theatre in Mumbai
You surely are living under the rock if you are unaware of the iconic Maratha Mandir in central Mumbai. This is the famous movie hall that has been screening the Bollywood blockbuster Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995) for more than 22 years now. Another Bollywood classic, Mughal-E-Azam (1960) was premiered here and was screened for six years.
Built in 1958, this theatre still continues to screen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (DDLJ) once everyday. While tickets for new releases go up to a maximum of INR 130, enjoy DDLJ for INR 25.
For the love of good old 1980s/90s movies, head towards the Gulshan Theatre on Grant Road. Amid the busy marketplace though the theatre has been revamped, it still stands like a relic, selling tickets for as low as INR 10.
Priya Cinema, Kolkata
Priya Cinema in south Kolkata has evolved into one of the most popular single screen theatres in the city. It was the first eastern India theatre to introduce online/computerised ticket booking system. Besides films, the hall is also available for stage shows and other events. The uniplex screens Hindi, Bengali and English films for prices as low as INR 90, per show!
Everest Digital 2K Cinema, Bengaluru
The Frazer Town area in Bengaluru hosts the iconic Everest Talkies (now known as Everest Digital 2K Cinema) for more than 80 years now. It is one of the oldest and the last surviving cinema heritage of its kind. The theatre was built in 1932 and still screens documentaries and Hindi, English and Kannada releases.
Delite and Golcha in New Delhi
Before multiplexes came into being, Delite Cinema at Delhi Gate was the place for Delhiites. Though renovated, it still maintains its ancient look and has two halls – Delite and Delite Diamond, screening both Hindi and English films. For a star class seat, the theatre charges not more than INR 200, INR 175 for balcony and between INR 90-110 for a centre stall.
Spending time in these theatres is undoubtedly like stepping inside a time machine that takes you back in time!