Curtains down on Rex Theatre

Curtains down on Rex Theatre

Last of the standalone cinemas in the Cantonment area shuts down on December 31 to make way for a mall and multiplex

Rex Theatre has screened some iconic films such as Sleeping Beauty, Return of Dragon, Chattakkari and recently Charlie, Bahubali and Enthiran.

Rex, one of Bengaluru’s oldest single-screen theatres, is closing down on December 31. A mall and a multiplex will come up in its place.

The theatre has a chequered history, and dates back to pre-Independence days. Known to screen Hollywood films, it brings back fond memories for at least three generations of Bengalureans.

The theatre was built more than 80 years ago, when Bengaluru was still two distinct cities for all practical purposes---Kempegowda’s ‘pete,’ with its Kannada-speaking population, and the Cantonment, with the last of the British, and a predominantly Tamil and Anglicised Indian crowd.

Pasupalety Venugopal Naidu, aka P V Paul, was the first owner of Rex, and so it was called Paul’s Rex. The theatre went into the hands of a bank when he couldn’t repay a mortgage. In 1961, Nand Lal Kapur, from the family that now owns the theatre, bought it at a public auction for Rs 8.51 lakh.

Ten theatres in Cantonment showed Hollywood and English-language films, catering to Bengaluru’s cosmopolitan audience. In the 1970s, they began closing down one by one. Galaxy shut down in 2002. Plaza was demolished in 2005 to make way for a Metro station. In the new millennium, Rex became the last theatre standing.

In 1962, the first film to be screened under the Kapur family’s management was Sleeping Beauty. A Bruce Lee film, Return of Dragon (1979), ran the longest: 29 weeks. The Malayalam film Chattakkari (1974) ran for 16 weeks in the morning slot.

In more recent years, the theatre has screened films such as Enthiran (Tamil), Bahubali (Hindi) and Charlie (Kannada).

When Metrolife visited Rex on Saturday, many in the audience shared their memories.

Roopa, an IT professional who was there with her friends to watch the Rajnikanth film 2.O, would miss morning classes and watch films at Rex.

“It was a hangout spot for many of us,” she said. With many colleges within a radius of 3 km, Rex was a favourite haunt for students in the days before the advent of television and the Internet.

Somesh Yadav, 84, was being helped up the stairs by his daughter. “Rex is the only theatre I go to. I will stop going to cinemas now,” he said, when we asked him about his memories. “

“Sometimes, I used to watch many shows on the same day. From sound to projection, everything was just perfect at Rex,” says M K Bhaskara Rao, senior journalist.

The theatre was frequented by many Kannada actors like, Shiva Rajkumar, Puneeth Rajkumar, Kumar Bangarappa, and Kokila Mohan. Sihi Kahi Chandru has not missed a single Hollywood film screening at Rex, according to Nagaraj.

Rex Rozario, well-known saxophonist, recalls the days when his father, Jakes Rozario used to play at the theatre before the film began.

Some staffers go back 50 years

Gangadhar S Hiremath, 71, has been an usher for 50 years, and patrons from the 1960s walk up to him to chat. He has cycled to work all through his tenure. “I have grown old with Rex,” he told Metrolife.

S Joseph, 66, carpenter, has always enjoyed working for Rex. “I am blessed with the best bosses. They never treat us like workers. They acknowledge us as their own family,” he said.

Michael Monteiro, 76, booking clerk, joined Rex immediately after finishing secondary school. “Another year and I complete 50 years here,” he said.
Films based on the novels of Alistair MacLean, such as Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone, and Fear is the Key, did very well at Rex, he recalls.

B M Nagaraj, manager, been associated with the theatre for about 22 years. He remembers the days the crowds were much bigger. “Back then people would throng Rex to watch Hollywood films. Multiplexes attract bigger crowds these days,” he said. He expects the Rex to come back as a multiplex within a mall in about three years.

G Sukumar, deputy manager, has been part of the Rex family for 33 years. Some of the booking staff go back about 40 years.

First and last

The first film to be shown under the present owners was Sleeping Beauty in 1962. The last film is likely to be 2.O, if it runs a full month.