The Indian junta follows 2 religions: cinema and cricket. Black-and-white films that tell a story to live music marked the beginning of a culture that would soon become inseparable from Indian audiences. And with every leap that technology made, Indian cinema underwent an irreversible change for the better.
Where a closet was the gateway to the fantasy land of Narnia in CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, cinemas serve as the gateway between reality and the world of fiction and entertainment. While cinemas never lose their charm, they are constantly having to undergo plastic surgery to compete with the younger gadgets and technology that are putting movies on the public’s desks/palms.
The advent of multiplexing is a milestone in the history of cinema halls and this success story was written in New Delhi, the country’s capital. A feat befitting the splendor of the city.
The people of Delhi have always been market savvy and are among the frontrunners to embrace new ideas. At a time when people were increasingly preferring to buy videocassettes and watch films at home, the Chanakya and Regent cinemas had installed digital sound systems, becoming the first cinemas to do so and attracting Hollywood fans. The Chanakya Theater continues to offer the residents of Chanakyapuri an excellent movie experience to this day.
The Shiela Theatre, the country’s first 70mm cinema hall, was founded in 1961. At the time of its construction, the concept of 70mm screens was so alien to the architects and engineers of India that an American authority on movie theater and auditorium design was commissioned to create the auditorium. Shiela Theater has been attended by numerous luminaries over the years such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Zakir Hussain, Indira Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan and Amrish Puri. With an impeccable audiovisual system, this ancient auditorium on the bustling streets of Karol Bagh continues to attract a sizeable portion of the city’s moviegoers.
Priya Village Roadshow (PVR), a household name, is the first chapter of India’s multiplex revolution. The venture was the result of Delhi-based entrepreneur Bijli Pahalwan’s bid to declare war on Chanakya. PVR bought a theater called Anupam in Saket, New Delhi in 1997, renovated the place and renamed the theater PVR Anupam. This is how India’s first multiplex was born.
PVR currently has 8 multiplexes in New Delhi, one each in Saket, Prashant Vihar, Naraina Industrial Area and Vasant Vihar and 2 each in Vikaspuri and Connaught Place. Regardless of where they are located, all PVR multiplexes boast comfortable seating, surround sound systems and exceptional video quality. In addition to the screens, the multiplexes boast gaming zones and food courts, thereby fulfilling their promise of offering customers varied entertainment.
Connaught Place is the city’s horseshoe-shaped shopping and entertainment district. 3 luxurious cinema halls offer a break for the weary shoppers and worn-out wallets. In the inner circle of Connaught Place is the PVR Plaza, a refurbished single-screen auditorium with a capacity of 300 seats. Rivaling the PVR Plaza is the Odeon, a meeting place described as “cool” by film buffs in the city. Regal, New Delhi’s first cinema hall, has been redesigned to accommodate the diverse crowds that flock to Connaught Place.
Fun Cinemas, one of India’s largest cinema chains, monopolizes the screening scene in East Delhi. 2 fun cinema halls, one each in Preet Vihar and Shahdara are the only cinema halls in East Delhi. Reclining seats, 3-way surround sound systems and the advantages of the latest technology lure fantasy fans to the Fun Cinemas.
Golcha Cinema in the 300-year-old shopping district of Chandni Chowk is one of New Delhi’s most popular haunts for film buffs. Its retro pink exterior and cut-out lettered sign atop the building screaming the hall’s name convince a visitor that time has stepped back by at least half a century. However, the carpeted interiors, Dolby Digital sound systems, and JBL speakers are the spoils of modern technology, and you’ll find that the quality of the presentation doesn’t suffer.
Currently there are 30 places to watch movies in Delhi and most of them are talkies. Multiplex culture is still catching on, and New Delhi’s single-screen cinemas will soon need a refurbishment if they are to have any hope of capturing the interest of the bustling metropolis’ matrix-moving crowd.