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Big fish in celluloid seas

Has the multiplex culture taken a swipe of the pie of traditional cinema halls? KANIKA DHAWAN takes a round of some South Delhi hang-outs... .

3C'S Multiplex at Lajpat Nagar . Photos: S. Subramanium

CINEMA HAS always been a love of the common people, inexpensive and entertaining. The whiff of buttered popcorn and the thrill of watching one's favourite film star on the big screen are the main reasons behind a visit to this celluloid amphitheatre. Or are they?

Enter planet new-age hall with its red graffiti coloured walls, star designed floor, yellow lights and multiple screens. Fancy theatres have opened new doors to the same reel heaven. What now exists is a perplexing array of magnificent `multiplexes' complemented by exorbitant film tickets and popcorn prices, food courts and shops.

Stepping across the threshold of these state-of-the art theatres that are considered cool places to hang out is a new generation audience. From school students like Simar Puggal to corporate executives like Vishal Gambhir, the opinion of the upper crust seems to be: "A normal Hindi movie can be enjoyed in any hall, but a good film can only be savoured in a good theatre."

As Smriti Kapur a Delhi university student puts it, "The best part of going to PVR is, one can enjoy a number of things under the same roof."

Now that the cinema experience comprises more than the film and the size of the screen, competition has erupted between theatres across the Capital. Take South Delhi, where venerable old cinema halls like Sapna, Paras, Chanakya and Eros try to maintain their dignity amidst the onslaught by new-age halls like PVR-Anupam and 3 C's to name a few.

The manager of Sapna cinema, Sudhir Sharma observes: "The collection of a movie depends on the content and the banner producing it. Our audience comes under the middle class category as compared to the upper crust that visits PVR. Our rates are lower, we have good seating capacity and a functional air-conditioning system."

He does not feel an urgent need to refurbish his cinema hall. "There exists a PVR culture, but only for the upper class that don't mind spending a huge amount on a movie."

Chandralok, in Chittaranjan Park, closed for the past eight months, wears a deserted look and it's anybody's guess what the management plans. Meanwhile, Naseemuddin, proprietor of Shalimar declares: "I don't need to worry about any other theatre. I have a flourishing business." No wonder, as his theatre is famous for X-rated films!

Anand Sharma, manager of Eros opines: "PVR is a trend, they have multiplexes which give the audiences a wider choice, but at the same time it is heavy on the pocket. We have one hall, reasonable ticket prices and the other basic facilities."

On the lines of PVR is 3C's, or Competent Cine Court at Lajpat Nagar. What was the basic reason behind renovating the old Alankar cinema on a whopping Rs.20 crore budget? General Manager P.L Abbot explains: "The concept of going to a cinema has totally changed. People want choices, and we are the facilitators. With restaurants and places to shop, cinemagoers can do a variety of things at the same time. With state-of-the-art sound systems and great ambience we aim to recreate the cinematic magic on a higher ground."

Marketing chief, PVR cinemas, Tushar Dhingra reiterates the ability of PVR to set high standards of quality in the entertainment industry. "We aim to maintain our position of being one of the best. Our value proposition is not only to chase money but to create a whole new experience for our patrons."

Practicing Psychiatrist Dr. Vasantha Patri remarks: "Nowadays people are looking for freedom, for space where they can generally hang around. Recreation is taking a new dimension like going to bowling alleys, cafés or cinema. It is a new lifestyle for each, according to their need and power to spend."

In a city that has no beach, and is dangerous to pedestrians, almost every recreational option comes for a heavy price. So splurging in style seems to be the motto.

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