Screening viewers' choices

Screening viewers' choices

Wearing the “Cosmopolitan City” badge with pride, Bangalore has seldom been able to escape the influx of cultures, some that have become a part of the City at an appropriate time and many that impose themselves even before it is ready. The creeping mall culture, which has also given rise to new-age, more commercial digital experiences for the cinema audience through multiplexes, could not be resisted too.

Multiplexes are adding more screens by the day. Single-screen, spool-driven cinema halls are closing down here, succumbing to inescapable pressures of the market and the willingness or unwillingness of the film industry to support or not to support them.

But the traditional cinema hall is not set to fade out. Not yet. Rex, Urvashi, Cauvery, Ajantha, Adarsha, Mukunda, Sampige, Savita and many more theatres on Kempegowda Road. The list of single-screen cinema halls goes on, standing in the way of a complete whitewash.

Supporting these cultural symbols in the wake of new economic models are the typical, traditional movie buffs who swear by these theatres, coupled with those with pockets not deep enough to afford the burgeoning multiplexes.

Says Subramanya: “Yes, they (multiplexes) are fashionable, but they are so ‘refined’ to match a real movie experience. And what match is a TV-like display when compared to spool-driven cinema?”

The digital age that has made owning and running a movie theatre difficult might be here to stay. But there is a definite need to save the culture of real cinema, he feels.
For Rebecca D, a college student, affordability becomes a bigger issue.

Recently, she said, she had watched a vernacular movie at Ajantha.  On why she had not watched the film at a multiplex, she said: “I paid only Rs 40 at Ajantha. I won’t even get a cup of coffee for that much in a mall, forget a movie ticket.”

Deccan Herald took a tour of a few single-screen theatres. Complaints of bad infrastructure at some of them notwithstanding, the theatres are just doing fine.
Rex, for example, ran a full-house on Saturday morning, and Adarsha in Ulsoor did the same.

Explaining how this works, Ramesh - owner of Sampige and Savita theatres - said: “There is a lot of talk about multiplexes. I have also watched a couple of movies there. But our theatres are doing just fine.” By way of explanation, he says: “It is the movies that run theatres. Theatres do not run movies!”

Traditional movie buffs fully agree with his views. It’s a clash of cultures here, with different wants and different definitions of cinema. “While multiplexes offer what many define as a complete experience, it is not real,” feels Vani. Subramanya adds:
 “Several of their shortcomings are what make a real film, which doesn’t hide
incompetence through refinement.”

Notwithstanding this is the growth story of the multiplexes in the City, like in other metros in the country. One of the biggest reasons for this could be the
returns the producers get from such establishments.

According to indicine.com, which tracks such trends, the difference in the first day collections of ‘My Name Is Khan’ in a big single screen in Uttar Pradesh and a major multiplex in the same State tells us why.

‘My Name Is Khan’ collected Rs 1,18,961 net at Heer in Kanpur and the admissions here were 4,195. At Fun in Agra, the same film collected Rs 1,32,032 net and the
admissions here were just 1,543.

This shows, that the single-screen theatre had nearly three times the attendance, but still a lower collection. What must be remembered here is that Fun in Agra has low ticket costs for a multiplex and Heer in Kanpur is one of the better single screens in India.

“Comparing with an upmarket multiplex then, we have PVR, Bangalore, which had a collection of Rs 5,15,084 net, with admissions of 2,149. In comparison with Heer in Kanpur, it had more than four times the collection, but just half the admissions,” it said.

This is the biggest indicator that collections do not show how many people are actually watching a particular film in India. It is likely that the Rs five-crore net business from single screens would have the same number of admissions as the multiplexes which record a Rs 20-crore net business.

Need for regulation
Basant Kumar Patil, President of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), said: “The argument is not that multiplexes are a bane to the industry. We just want some regulations in place.”

Patil conceded that single-screen theatres also have other pressures. For example, he said, a single-screen theatre has to use its generator, the air-conditioning, et al, even if they have only half the capacity. This adds to the economic pressures, which eventually translate into other shortcomings.

Another producer, without wanting to be named, said: “Yes, we do get considerably more returns from multiplexes, but regulation will only help better them.”

Patil claimed that in Tamil Nadu, for example, seats in the first two rows even in the multiplexes cost only Rs 10. “This will encourage more people to go there.”

The KFCC has made a proposal to the government seeking several regulations, including uniform ticket pricing and more space for Kannada cinema in the multiplexes.

While the clash of cultures, with one set of people rooting for single-screen theatres and other going for convenience, is set to persist for some more time, the challenges both kinds of establishments face in attracting more people will be the key.

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