With film buffs increasingly giving the thumbs down to poor infrastructure, cinemas in the city have found makeovers a winning deal…

If you are a city-based film buff and your only source of movies is the cinema, chances are that you would have watched only one among the many contenders for the Oscar awards this year. Except ‘Gravity,’ which swept seven Oscars, and ‘Great Beauty,’ which was screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala, none of the others were released in the city.

This is a far cry from the situation a decade ago, when viewers in the city had already watched a good number of the Oscar films on the big screen, before the awards. With some cinemas closed for renovation and a few others not very keen on such films, the film buffs are at a loss. Not really, thanks to torrent sites.

The 19 cinemas in the city have seen wild swings in their fortunes in the past decade, but have managed to survive, some with the help of a little reinvention. Though it has been long argued that audiences are deserting cinemas, time and again this has been proved wrong, most recently in the case of films such as ‘Drishyam’ and ‘1983.’ When The Hindu talked to movie fans, the majority made clear their preference for the big screen, but all of them invariably raised issues of poor infrastructure in the cinemas.

Poor facilities

“Anyone who is more than just a casual viewer of movies will always prefer the big screen. Unless one has a huge screen at home and watches movies on a blu-ray disc, there is nothing to match the cinema experience. But barring a few cinemas in the city that got a makeover in recent times, none of the others can provide this ‘experience.’ Who would want to go back to such a facility?” asks J. Sreekumar, a software engineer at Technopark.

Beena Paul, artistic director of the International Film Festival of Kerala, recounts a recent visit to the cinema.

“It was a movie I had been waiting to watch for long. But it was a miserable experience as the projection was of poor quality, and there were rats running all around. Some of our cinemas have a long way to go in hygiene,” she says.

Ticket booking is another ordeal, as many cinemas are yet to make tickets available online.

The situation is slowly changing, with some major cinemas getting renovated in recent times. Coupled with this is a shift towards lesser seats. Sree Padmanabha with 1,050 seats has now been converted into two cinemas of 550 and 200 seats. With the addition of Nila, the combined number of seats in the Kairali-Sree complex has come down. “The expectations of the current audience are high. In addition to good screening facilities, it has become a must to provide ample parking space, food courts, and play area for kids,” says Girish Chandran, owner of Sree Padmanabha.

The renovated New Theatre with three screens is expected to be opened within three months.

“The old cinema had 1,400 seats. Now, we are converting the balcony into two cinemas, which will seat 150 and 180 persons, respectively. The ground floor will have a seating capacity of 600,” says S. Karthikeyan, director of the Sree Kumar-Sree Visakh and New Theatres.

Revenue up

Renovation surely is the way forward as is evident from the jump in revenue of the government-run cinemas in recent times. In the past two financial years, the Kerala State Film Development Corporation, which runs the Kairali complex and Kalabhavan, has seen an increase in revenues of 55 per cent and 14.5 per cent, respectively.

The city is yet to get a multiplex, in the conventional sense of the term. It is a double-edged sword, as the unmatched viewing pleasure comes at the cost of a few extra hundred rupees. “We need to find a middle ground, as it will be a huge burden on movie-goers here if tickets are priced like in other cities,” says Ms. Beena Paul.

The Tamil Nadu model looks like a worthy one to follow. The government there has fixed Rs.120 as the upper limit for tickets, be it a glitzy multiplex or a broken-down single screen.

With the upcoming Kerala State Road Transport Corporation complex at Thampanoor also set to have a cinema complex, things might just take a better turn for the film buffs in the city.