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Multiplexes on a prolonged intermission

The Bollywood producers’ association decided to release Hindi films only at single-screen theatres.

Written by DiptiNagpalD’Souza |
April 24, 2009 4:34:17 pm

Now playing at a multiplex near you’ is passé phrase. Fame Adlabs,Andheri,one of the more popular destinations for suburban moviegoers,wears a deserted look these days. The cleaner has parked himself in a corner next to the security table for a convenient chat. The supervisor doesn’t seem to mind — with the first two shows cancelled and only a handful turning up for those after noon,the cleaner can well go on an extended lunch break.

Earlier this month,the Bollywood producers’ association,in a standoff with multiplex owners over profit-sharing,decided that Hindi films will now release only at single-screen theatres across the country. And the effects of the multiplex strike are visible.

The display screen indicates that the five-screen multiplex offers limited options. In time for the latest Hollywood animation flick Monsters Vs Aliens,I ascend to the lobby that is usually packed with audiences queued up in front of the dozen-odd food counters. Today I can afford to take my time as there’s no one behind me.

In a bid to push the falling sales,there are ‘attractive’ combo offers where you can buy an otherwise exorbitantly priced tub of popcorn and a drink at a discounted price of Rs 250 along with a free audio or video CD. I enquire. But Himesh Reshammiya and his burning guitar fail to enthuse.

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Waiting to be ushered in,I chat with an employee. The situation is grim,with 10-15 per cent shows being cancelled every day and ticket and snack sales down to single digit percentile. There’s a blanket gag order on talking to the media,so hesitantly she confesses: “We’ve closed down one screen for renovation and are on a cost-cutting spree. We’ve switched to low voltage bulbs and keep half the lobby lights switched off. The air-conditioning too is not switched on till before the show. Single screens are lucky that their tickets are cheaper; no one will come here because we’re expensive.” I notice that she doesn’t know much about the ongoing strike. “I’ve heard about it but the details are not shared with us,” she adds.

Moving to Inox,Nariman Point,I’m surprised to see a line-up of 10 films — besides screening releases of the last two weeks,the multiplex has retained films like Little Zizou and Confessions of a Shopaholic that fared decently at the box office,in hope to attract those who didn’t catch these movies earlier. A group of teenage boys is at the snack counter. Here to watch Fast & Furious “for the action”,it’s their first outing after exams,sans parents.

But the overall scenario,admits another unnamed employee,isn’t any better here either. Again,one of the screens has been closed down temporarily. “It’s all because of IPL,” he sighs,adding,“There are hardly any movies releasing and who would want to watch a film at this time? If I had a choice,I’d stay home for the game too.”

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A trip to Eros,at Churchgate,one of the most popular single screen theatres in Mumbai,reveals that IPL effect is setting in too. The booking counter is practically empty and the personnel at the counters are having an animated political debate. Harihar Naik,one of them,comes forward to offer assistance. “We can’t afford to cancel shows since we’re situated at a prime location; we’ll lose patrons,” he admits. “But we’re much better off and are doing better business than the multiplexes. Many come here because they don’t want to spend Rs 300 on a ticket. But as soon as a film starring any one of the Khans releases,we’ll go house-full.”

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First published on: 24-04-2009 at 04:34:17 pm

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