Shiela, a class apart

Yes, it is actually a class apart, different from the upmarket PVR and Waves cinema theatres which have sprung up all over Delhi in recent years. Standing tall since its inception on January 12, 1961, Sheila Theatre ‘70’ beca­me the first 70mm screen and that’s why the name.

Sheila brought in international standards in building design, viewer comfort and theatre maintenance besides being the first cinema hall in Delhi to introd­uce DTS long before it beca­me fashionable. But it lost its shine when most single screen cinemas were shut down and the multiplex trend took over more than a decade ago.

Shares Uday Kaushish, Shiela’s director, “We visuali­sed its construction as early as 1937, but World War II and shortage of building materials delayed development for alm­ost a couple of decades. But, this proved to be a blessing in disguise as it enabled Shiela to benefit from the post-war technological advances in the West.”

Talking about the first 70mm theatre, Uday says, “After the successful breakthr­o­u­gh achieved in America with the first 70mm wide film strip, we also thought of bringing it to India. But, the hurdle was the entire revision of the construction plans. Plus, there were no technicians here who were familiar with the job.”

The cinema hall has been designed keeping ‘you’ - its audience in mind. It believes that once you enter Shiela, you should forget the stresses and strains of your day-to-day life and fully enjoy the film.

Housed on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road in Pahar Ganj, the theatre now welcomes lesser number of cinema buffs as most of them are attracted towards its more glamorous counterparts in malls.
But few are aware that Shiela maintains picture and sound reproductions as per the standards prescribed by the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of America.

“Shiela also pays special attention towards picture presentation. Despite considerable fina­ncial crisis, the theatre restricts the exhibition of advertising shorts and slides to a minimum. We are also obsessed with punctuality. If a film is of longer duration, we reduce the number of shows rather than advertise wrong timings and thus avoid confusion,” adds Uday.

The theatre was the first and is still the only mid-town theatre in Delhi to have its own private parking lot. Sheila has also played the host to many important dignitaries. Like two of India’s four presidents – late V V Giri and late Dr Zakir Husain have been amongst the large number of patrons who enjoyed films at the theatre.

But according to Uday, it is the millions of patrons who have seen movies at Sheila who are really the true admirers of the theatre.

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