OLD THEATRES OF MUMBAI: The vanishing audiences
To be honest I myself feel odd when I walk into an Eros or Sterling today. I feel I’ve entered a whole different era altogether. There are no cushioned or padded seats, no armrests with pits to keep popcorns and neither are the chairs stretchable. But there are no regrets either. On the contrary I feel complete ease when I pay a maximum Rs. forty or Rs sixty for a ticket, twenty five for popcorn and still come out watching a movie which was mediocre. At least I don’t feel royally fleeced at the end of the day. I don’t feel cheated and angered that the movie was bad (just because it was not worth the three hundred rupee ticket, the fifty rupee popcorn and the precious three hours). This is the feeling multiplexes give.
To me Metro, Eros, Regal, Sterling, are perfectly fine alternatives for an Inox at nariman point. Regal is a bit expensive. But how does it matter, I got to see an old theatre, with beautiful architecture, a lovely canteen and a bit scary but nice balcony. I watched Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se in Eros and loved it. When I entered the hall with my mother I was shocked to see not a soul for the first fifteen minutes. The chairs were hard and there were long fans hanging from the ceiling. A man entered at the twentieth minute and that was it. We were the audience, an audience of three. It was sad, this was the effect of the multiplexes.
Had I watched the same movie in Inox I would be angry because I would have to pay four hundred rupees for the ticket of a small budget movie. If I had to pay the same for a movie like Iron Lady I wouldn’t complain much.
I would like to point out the reasons as to why the audiences avoid single screen theatres. Apart from the number of screens that provide convenience at multiplexes and of course the comfort, there are three other factors too. The day I was in Eros I spotted something. I saw the hygiene level. The chairs were dirty. It was hot. The fans were slow. Even the walls looked old. Everything looked old. The canteen stock was limited. Watching a movie is a complete entertainment experience and food is part of the deal. So when I go up to the canteen counter I don’t want to hear “Madam puff khatam ho gaya”.
If single screen theatre owners consider these factors and change them it can definitely work in drawing more audiences, to a certain extent. These halls cannot be transformed into multiplexes, since that is not possible. But hygiene can be taken care of and so can be comfort. We want clean and comfortable chairs to rest our bums on. The canteen must offer more variety. Installing air conditioners would be an important and much needed step.
The owner of Liberty theatre has made some changes and today Liberty has more audience. My point is that there has to be a will to change things and that stems from a love towards what you possess. The owner of liberty theatre has done it, so can the others?
S. TANUJA. SURENDRA