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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My most favorite theaters...

Going to a cinema in the 60s and 70s was a great outing and good fun…My memories are evergreen about my favorite theaters

Watching movies was a great pastime in the 60s and 70s when the television had not yet invaded our drawing rooms and bedrooms. It was good fun and an enjoyable outing to go and stand in the queue, well ahead of the show timings, and buy our tickets to watch a movie.

The rates at which we saw excellent movies ranged from Rs1.50 to Rs2 or Rs2.50 (maximum rates being Rs3 or Rs3.50). Incredible, isn’t it? Today we cannot even buy a bunch of spinach with that money!!

The theatres were also quite comfortable, air-conditioned and seats were cushioned too. (I say this because one may imagine that with the kind of money we paid, we would have sat in a dingy hall with lesser comforts).

My most favorite cinema theatre was a multiplex called Safire, located at the heart of our city, Madras (presently known as Chennai in Tamilnadu), in Mount Road, (now called Anna Salai). It was just next to the present Gemini flyover. The complex was owned by the Veecumsee group.

There were three theatres namely, Safire, Emerald and Blue Diamond. English movies were shown in Safire, while Emerald screened Hindi movies.

Blue Diamond had a unique feature of holding continuous shows from 9AM to midnight. You only needed to buy ticket once and you could keep watching the movie again and again the whole day. Even if you entered in the middle or end of the show, you could continue to sit and watch the movie screened again from the beginning. Once when I was working, I had to attend office in the afternoon shift which began at 1pm. So, in the morning I went with my close friend to Blue Diamond to watch “Abba the movie” from 9AM, then had my lunch and later went to work at 1pm.

My childhood memories of having watched movies like “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”,  “My Fair Lady”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”, and many Laurel and Hardy’s movies at Safire are still fresh and remain evergreen.

Safire was the first of its kind among multiplex. Other complex theatres like Devi, Devi Paradise, Sathyam etc were all built only later.

It was indeed a sad sight to watch the Safire being demolished in stages a few years ago by bigwigs who had bought it.

Today, watching movies in theaters has become a costly affair for the common man. Tickets range from Rs 50 to Rs300 or more. There is no standard rate in theatres. They charge depending on the hype given to a movie or the popularity of the stars featured in it. Going to movies with the whole family has decreased because of this. The number of theatres has also decreased due to demolitions of the old ones. Advent of DVD players, home theatres etc is also another reason for the decrease in the number of moviegoers, when compared to that of the 60s and 70s.

Even the entertainment value and features like strong storyline, veteran actors, and evergreen songs of yesteryear are all incomparable to those of today.

Technically, cinema might have risen to greater heights but socially and emotionally, it was much better in those days… I go nostalgic when I think about movies of yesteryear…

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