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Know Your City: Rohini Silver Screens, the Mecca of first-day first-show celebration in Chennai

Fans would love to flock to Rohini on Poonamalle High Road in Koyambedu even during the screening of special shows to celebrate a filmstar's birthday or during a re-run of a blockbuster movie.

The Rohini Cinemas has a Dolby Atmos facility in three of its screens, a 4K projection system and state-of-the-art seating imported from Mumbai. (RohiniSilverScr/Twitter)
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Cinema and its accompanying celebrations are like a match made in heaven. The craze for film release and stardom celebrations takes a higher plank when it comes to the movie buffs of Tamil Nadu.

The frenzy goes to such an extent that people fly to Chennai to witness the madness that takes place on the release day of a superstar movie.

Rohini Silver Screens established in the 1980s on Poonamalle High Road in Koyambedu on the outskirts of Chennai is among the top theatres in the city which is dubbed as the Mecca of the first-day first-show celebrations, popularly called FDFS. The theatre set up by Panneerselvam now has a seating capacity of over 2,000 and has become the first preference for film enthusiasts on the day of a film release.

Even during the screening of special shows to celebrate a filmstar’s birthday or during a re-run of a blockbuster movie, fans would love to flock to Rohini.

“When my father bought this land, the entire area was more like a dense forest. Back then, Mount Road was the cinema hub. It used to have 10-15 screens. There was no commercial or any other building here as it was on the city outskirts. But still, my father took a risk and bought this land, says Revanth Charan, 27, executive director of Rohini Cinemas.

Even during the screening of special shows to celebrate a filmstar’s birthday or during a re-run of a blockbuster movie, fans would love to flock to Rohini. (RohiniSilverScr/Twitter)

Post-2000s, the economy started booming, the city started growing and Rohini prospered too. The Greater Chennai Corporation expanded its wings and the area where the theatre is located became a part of the city and Rohini Cinemas went on to become a key player in the industry. “Our job is to maintain that and work in a way that suits this generation. My brother Nikilesh Surya (29) and I took over the reins of the theatre in 2015 and after that we renovated the building. The first movie we screened after the renovation was Rajnikanth-starrer ‘Kabali’. We couldn’t be happier than that,” smiles Revanth.

Sharing the secret behind their firm’s name, Revanth says his father’s star sign is ‘Rohini’. Today the theatre at Koyambedu has close to seven screens.

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When asked about the fans’ connect with Rohini, Revanth says the fans have nicknamed the theatre as ‘Fans Fort’ and he and his team had been doing a lot of things to attract their participation. He says lead film stars have been coming to Rohini to catch a glimpse of FDFS of their movie alongside their fans.

When asked about a theatre owner’s perspective on the constant pressure they endure from the fans urging them to provide an update of a movie release in their theatres, Revanth says it is becoming difficult as the day progresses but they still try to do their best. (RohiniSilverScr/Twitter)

Pointing out its democratic perception, Revanth says “Rohini is of, by and for the fans. They will have the experience of their lifetime here. Unlike other theatres in the city, fans here have the liberty to celebrate their stars. They don’t have so many restrictions here. But at the same time, there have been instances in the past where a few of them had damaged the seats, screens, etc. We cannot keep investing in a new screen every month. This affects the fans who wish to watch the movie on the same screen in the subsequent shows. We plan a lot to satisfy the fans but certain incidents like these affect us a lot. If the fans are responsible enough, we are ready to give them all liberty.”

Revanth, being in the league of Generation Z, says he is able to understand the vibe of the current generation and knows what exactly a fan wants to do for his star.

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“To ensure a seat for the FDFS, fans not just from Tamil Nadu but even from other states and countries visit Rohini,” says Revanth who recollects an incident where a fan flew all the way from Tokyo to witness the celebrations for a Rajinikanth film. Rohini Cinemas gets emails, messages on WhatsApp, Twitter, and other social media platforms prior to the movie release asking for bulk tickets. “This doesn’t happen just for FDFS, even for special shows to celebrate their favourite star’s birthday. We have a pink light set up in the theatre which goes to and fro during the special moments in the movie. We were the ones who started that trend and it became a huge hit among moviegoers.”

The process behind FDFS at Rohini

Explaining the preparation that goes into the FDFS in Rohini, the executive director says the big thing is the ticket. “Though we give our priority to fans, we can’t really avoid the demand of others, including our family members, friends, politicians, and police personnel. We wish to make everyone happy but practically that is not always possible,” Revanth says. One day before the first show screening, the crew conducts a complete inspection of the sound system and lighting arrangement. “If the show is at 4 am right from the previous night, we do a total check of the theatre, including the cleanliness of the seats and restrooms. We seek police protection, hire bouncers and deploy more staff for crowd management and safeguarding our property,” The management makes the arrangement at its own expense, while the fans club does their bit by organising percussion music ‘mela thalam’, hiring folk artists and other things.

FDFS from the outside may seem fancy, but it is a lot of work,” Revanth noted. (RohiniSilverScr/Twitter)

Another thing that Revanth points out is regarding Key Delivery Message (KDM). “There have been a lot of issues with receiving KDM on time. We will see fans celebrating outside the theatres, bursting crackers but we wouldn’t have received KDM due to financial issues from the film producers’ side. The theatre owners will be awake till the time the issue is sorted out. FDFS from the outside may seem fancy, but it is a lot of work,” Revanth noted.

Revanth admits that unlike older days there is huge competition in the industry. There are close to 25 screens and multiplexes within 5 kilometres from his theatre. “It makes us keep pushing and do as many things as possible to sustain and keep their fans engaged. At the same time, the management is cordial with other theatre owners and discusses things on WhatsApp groups,” he says.

The Rohini Cinemas has a Dolby Atmos facility in three of its screens, a 4K projection system and state-of-the-art seating imported from Mumbai.

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Rohini Cinemas’ advantage over its rivals is that they have seven screens. So a person who could not book online, can still walk into the theatre, get the ticket from the counter and watch a movie on any of the screens. “Also, there are a lot of colleges here. So students tend to bunk their classes and reach Rohini,” Revanth quips.

When asked about a theatre owner’s perspective on the constant pressure they endure from the fans urging them to provide an update of a movie release in their theatres, Revanth says it is becoming difficult as the day progresses but they still try to do their best.

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‘Fans don’t really need to bother about a movies’ collection’

“Honestly, social media is both a boon and bane. We welcome the feedback from the fans. If we commit one mistake, it is out on social media immediately. We need to be very careful. At the same time, fans ask us a lot of other things especially about collections of a movie. We provide them the space for celebrations; do everything possible for giving an enriching theatrical experience. But they go to the extent of asking the collection report of a movie or commenting about the salary of a movie star, the distribution price, etc., which I think they needn’t bother,” opines Revanth, who disapproves of displaying every details on social media as it leads to the growth of many fake trackers.

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“They randomly put some numbers to create some unrest among fans, and this makes producers and others involved in the business come out with clarification, ” says Revanth who says Rohini crew wait till December every year, and release the list of 10 movies which have collected the most.

This year, according to Revanth, has been good so far as there have been a lot of surprises with many small movies doing extremely well at the box office.

The executive director claimed that exhibitors get around only 30 per cent of the ticket cost and the rest goes to the distributor. He said they need to manage every expense of the theatre, including staff salary, in that 30 per cent and hence they hiked the price of food and beverages inside the theatre complex as snacks and parking are the only areas where they generate a considerable profit. Citing examples of cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai, he says that the ticket price in Tamil Nadu is far less than other states.

‘The resumption of theatres and how OTT is not a threat’

Revanth noted that the business has been good this year compared to 2021. He claimed that the theatre business was the worst affected among all businesses during the lockdown period as theatres were the first to be closed and last to be opened.

Even though the government allowed theatres to open, there was apprehension among the public due to many myths and theories related to the spread of the virus. No matter whether it is kept open or not we need to pay the staff, keep running the projectors every three days, switch on the AC and clean the seats. Those were the dark days. The movie ‘Master’ acted by Thalapathy (Vijay) brought back people to theatres. We are recovering from the stress we endured during the lockdown,” he adds.

Refuting the perception that the OTT platform will affect the footfall in theatres, he claimed that people are willing to watch the movies in theatres and enjoy the atmosphere.

“Not all films will get a space on OTT. Theatres help these small films. A star or a technician has more reach if their films get a theatrical release. To cite one example, a brilliant film like ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ would have been a massive hit if it had got a theatrical release and the market value of its actor and the director would have risen to multiple folds which would have eventually helped them during their next movie release,” Revanth said.

The big question: How is Rohini gearing up for Pongal?

On how prepared they are to handle the clash of dates between Vijay-starrer ‘Varisu’ and Ajith’s ‘Thunivu’ which are scheduled for release during Pongal, Revanth says they are still figuring out plans as they are the biggest releases in Tamil cinema.

“Vijay and Ajith are two greatest stars of Tamil cinema and there is no second thought about it. ‘Varisu’ and ‘Thunivu’ are set for Pongal release and we have already started working towards that. We will initiate talks with representatives of both the actors’ fan clubs before the release day,” Revanth says. Right from allocating equal shows on the main screen, to setting up the banners, posters, Rohini Cinemas is planning to make things smoother so that both segments of fans are not disappointed. “We have planned umpteen numbers of celebrations right from the beginning from December,” he said.

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Rohini Cinemas which has set up a theatre in Tindivanam is coming up with three more screens for Pongal. Revanth said they plan to start screens in as many districts as possible so that people can experience the same vibe as in Koyambedu.

First published on: 06-12-2022 at 08:00 IST
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