Mangaluru, Dec 08, 2017: New Chitra Talkies - Dakshina Kannada’s first theatre and the only single-screen theatre to show English movies, has reached the end of the road after entertaining lakhs of film goers for 91 years.
It’s first name was ’Hindustan Cinema’ in 1926 and rechristened to its present name after renovation in 1973, the theatre failed to introduce new technology and also did not compete with multiplexes. To survive, the theatre also screened B-grade movies in mid-2000.
Speaking about the downfall of the theatre, Shankar Pai, who joined the family business as the third generation heir in 1980 along with his brother, said the closure was inevitable because of the rise of multiplexes.
"To upgrade to the multiplex standards we required a huge investment. To make things worse, demonetization also hit us hard. We could not recover. The death of the theatre is natural," he said. The New Chitra Talkies officially bid adieu to its fans on June 29. The place where the theatre now stands closed is located on Alake Road, a property owned by Sri Venkatarama Temple, Car Street. Shankar and his brother have now decided to turn the place into a furniture shop.
It had screened some big hits, including, Enter the Dragon (1973), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), Jurassic Park (1993) and Titanic (1997).
Asked why the theatre stopped screening English movies, Shankar was quick to point out that it was digitisation that changed the fortunes of the theatre.
"Once the reels were banned and the screening was digitised, the digital projections in India did not tie up with foreign studios. On the other hand, we chose to hire equipment from local players — UFO and CUBE — which did have foreign encryption. Hence, we had to stop the screening of English movies," Shankar said.
The New Chitra Talkies then started screening Bollywood movies. Garam Masala (2005), starring Akshay Kumar and John Abraham in the lead role, was the first Hindi movie to be screened in the district on digital screen.
After with digitisation blow, the New Chitra Talkies started losing its sheen with the advent of multiplexes. "With multiplexes beginning to shell out as much as the distributors asked for in order to procure a movie, we lagged in the race and ended up getting the leftovers — B-grade movies," he said.
"We were like the customers at a grocery store who wanted to buy onions late in the evening and had to come home contended with whatever onions were left at the store. The multiplexes had started taking all good movies by paying hefty money. What do we do? We chose to screen B-grades," Shankar said.
Shankar said his brother and he decided to wind up the business when they realized that they weren’t getting quality films. The final nail in the coffin came in the form of Salman Khan’s film ’Tubelight’.
"A single-screen owner in the city bought the movie for Rs 2.5 lakh. He could make a business of just about Rs 1.35 lakh, thus suffering a direct loss of Rs 1.15 lakh. If Salman Khan couldn’t work for single-screens, who else would? Also, I did not want to further dent the image of my talkies by continuing to screen lousy movies," Shankar said.
B-grade movies too did well in the box office, says Shankar. "Chinese Kama Sutra, screened in 1997-98, ran for 250 days. The advent of mobile phones and internet dented the prospects of such movies," he said. Emphasizing that there was nothing vulgar in B-grade movies and it was all about perception, Shankar said, "Old English movies were considered vulgar because of kissing scenes... Things have changed now. People are used to watching erotic scenes. Imagine the bathing scene in Ram Teri Ganga Maili... which category will you put it under? The movie ran for 50 days in New Chitra Talkies. There’s a scene in Titanic which many find objectionable. The movie ran for over 100 days in my theatre. Families thronged the theatre to watch Titanic. It is all about perception," he said.