Sitting Pretty

Are luxury movie theatres worth what they cost?

Written by Leher Kala | Published: June 11, 2013 3:08 am

The first film I watched in Gold Class was the regrettable Heroine some months ago. It was a total waste of 700 bucks but it would have been a waste at 200 bucks as well. At least I got a nice snooze,tucked under a blanket on a plush recliner chair. Somehow,though luxury cinemas have been around for a while,I have never been tempted to spend on them. The amount isn’t always prohibitive considering a regular ticket costs almost Rs 400 on weekends. But I think some discomfort is absolutely necessary to stay involved in most films. If you get too snug,it’s easy to switch off. Or rather,knock off.

Cinemas in India have come a long way. When we were in college,the only theaters considered safe and respectable in Delhi were Chanakya and Priya Cinema,especially after the tragic Uphaar fire. These were pretty much the only ones that played English movies. I have sat in Savitri Cinema where a guy next to me was smoking,and in another seedy hall in Friends Colony,there were mice scuttling at our feet. This was the reality of most halls 20 years ago.

Now,in 2013,even though the Indian rupee has hit a historic low and the economic forecast is desperately glum,there wasn’t a single ticket available for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani at PVR Director’s Cut last weekend. Kind of shocking since it’s priced at Rs 1,200 for the cheapest ticket plus extra for appetisers and drinks. Clearly,affluent Indians are looking for options to splurge. Since most of the patrons have already invested in snazzy home-theatre systems for a great movie watching experience,they’re looking for more than just popcorn and hot dogs when they go out for a movie. PVR reports a 60 per cent occupancy in this luxury hall,which is higher than most multiplexes.

We’re just discovering seven-star theatres,but in many other parts of the world,there are many halls in-between traditional theatres and luxury auditoriums. Texas (US) has a high end theatre with strict policies: no children under six,absolutely no cellphones in the hall and you can bring your own food. In Japan,there is a hall with a “social seating” plan: you can move your chair around and choose how close or far you want to sit from the screen. Another in the US has satin waterfall curtains. All of them offer gourmet food,cocktails and digital menus. My take on a Rs 1,200 movie ticket is the same I feel about a business class air ticket. Great,if your company thinks you’re worth spending that much on,otherwise,I’d personally go for the cheaper option. Unless it’s a really special occasion,or a really outstanding film I’m just not convinced that a movie for two should cost Rs 4,000 without any alcohol. Having said that,I enjoyed my first experience at Director’s Cut immensely when I went there to watch The Great Gatsby in 3D. Like everything that’s priced exorbitantly in Delhi,Director’s Cut operates like a rarefied,exclusive country club. There’s a lot of air kissing,the crowd is a blend of young and middle-aged wealthy from business and politics,happy bonding over rucola pizza and a fine wine list. The caramel popcorn was delectable. The seats are magnificent with a remote control option and personal side lamps. But again,with all that comfort,I found myself struggling to stay awake and it’s not because of the film. I wouldn’t come here for every movie. But maybe for a James Bond-style blockbuster.

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