Reeling under pressure
Going to theatres for watching a film was like a ritual, a decade ago. But now, the theatres are struggling for their survival, writes T.SARAVANAN
WITH THE invasion of satellite channels beaming hit films straight into your drawing rooms and plethora of videocassettes, compact discs of your choice available in the market, going to theatre for watching a movie is no longer a big deal. A decade ago, definitely it was.
Watching a film in a cinema hall was like a ritual. With a palpable excitement, the moviegoers would begin their preparations much in advance. It was considered a great outing and an experience in itself.
The anxiety of getting a ticket, the ordeal of making it to packed theatres and the fun of sitting through the three-hour entertainment which brought favourite stars alive and closer the entire package used to be indeed enviable. Not only for the moviegoer. Even the usherer or the cleaner working in a theatre would pride his or her `post' and walk around majestically flaunting the `yellow and red' tickets.
Even the guard at the entry point or the vehicles stand or the salesman at the goodies counter would not shy from sharing their valued comments on the film and in the process even recommend or reject a particular film to the eager audience.
Such was the spirit the films were able to kindle in the public. The first shows of every film would have gatecrashers either proving lucky or returning disappointed and having to wait for days together for their turn into the theatre. No doubt, running cinema theatres was a lucrative business. And many did opt for it.
There was a time when all cinema theatres used to be top draws and during weekends the theatre owners had a difficult time controlling the crowd. Several theatres had to bear the brunt of irritated fans who failed to get a ticket.
The first theatre, which came up in the temple city was perhaps the `City Cinema'. " The films in yesteryears were projected through bioscope. There used to be local musicians to play the background score for the movie. Films always found a huge patronage and the success of the first theatre soon led to the emergence of many more. Some theatres, which were staging dramas, converted themselves into cinema halls," recalled J.Vasanthan, Professor of English (Retd.), The American College.
"The Victoria Edward Hall (now `Thanga Regal' theatre), which was specially designed for hosting the reception function for Prince Edward VII, was then called `Regal Talkies'.
Catering to the entertainment needs of the English Community living in the city, the theatre screened several English classics. The films were such an inspiration that many locals honed their English speaking skills by watching those movies," he reminisced.
However, the scenario has simply taken a reverse. People now hesitate to go to theatres. Both rush and rowdyism are on the rise and majority shudder to undergo the trauma of buying tickets, and feeling suffocated in the crowd.
Not only has the audience declined, the introduction of satellite television and the pirated film CDs have contributed in weakening the financial position of theatre owners. As a result, several cinema theatres have closed down or converted into either marriage halls or shopping complexes during the past decade or so.
Here are few examples. The `Thangam' theatre dubbed as `Asia's biggest theatre' came into being with a lot of fanfare.
But now the theatre is closed and is under dispute.
The City Cinema right at the heart of the city on South Masi Street is defunct while the Imperial theatre has been converted into a shopping complex.
Devi Talkies and Chandra Talkies (later Shanthi Theatre) are also dead and gone.
Jayaraj Theatre has been converted into a marriage hall.
"If we are running these theatres today, it is only for prestige. We don't get appreciable business. Few new releases get full house on first few days of screening and then viewership tapers drastically.
"Several films last only a few shows. Very few films do well at the box office these days," lamented a manager of a popular film house here.
When theatres started screening films, it sounded the death knell for the stage art forms.
At that time, perhaps, no one thought that the wheel of fortune would turn against the film theatres themselves. They were running to packed houses and raking in money. Any new release would see people flocking to the theatres.
But alas, now the economic viability of these theatres stands jeopardised.
Send this article to Friends by