Cinema Scope in South Mumbai
There was a time when the comfy seats, air-conditioned halls and Art Deco architecture of South Mumbai's theatres attracted cinemagoers in hordes. But with changing technology and a boom in multiplexes, many are struggling to survive. Hassan M Kamal revisits these iconic sites, many of which have managed to change while others stoicly hold on to the past
Then Standing proudly at the MG Road junction, opposite Framjee Cawasjee Hall, Metro Cinema was built in 1938 by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) with a seating capacity 1491 seats and introduced as the theatre “Where The Lion Roars” screening mostly MGM films. Metro hosted the first Filmfare Awards nite in 1955. It began screening Hindi films in the 1970s. Raj Kapoor released Satyam Shivam Sundaram on a monsoon evening at Metro.
Now After a massive makeover in 2006, the theatre opened as a six-screen multiplex with Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and takes pride its exclusive lounges offering a luxurious cinematic treat.
First show: Broadway Melody of Love
At MG Road, Marine Lines, opposite Framjee Cawasjee Hall
Then As India marched into the world as a free country in the year 1947, so did Liberty with its owner Habib Hoosein dedicating the theatre to screen Hindi cinema. The Art Deco single screen theatre also housed a
30-seater hall called Liberty Mini used mostly for press screenings and private screenings. The theatre had a successful run with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun for 105 weeks.
Now Liberty is now trying to revive itself as a cultural centre hosting music, art, theatre and dance shows, besides providing its single screen for film festivals. Liberty is available for hire for any party wishing to host an event.
First show: Andaaz (1949)
Seating: 1,200 and 30 (Liberty Mini)
At Vithaldas Thackersey Marg, New Marine Lines
Then Situated diagonally opposite Churchgate station, Eros was one of most celebrated Art Deco cinema theatres that opened on February 12, 1938. Opened before Metro, Eros took pride in its wide-angle screen and the latest in sound and film projection systems. Eros was built by Shiavax Cambata to recreate the cinema halls that late Cambata saw in London.
Now The theatre still stands tall with its stepped octagonal tower and decorative bands, and a large Eros signboard stating its here for a long run. Eros screens both Hindi and English films and most recently has started screening even Marathi films.
At Cambata Building, 42 M Karve Road, Churchgate
Then Located at the junction that houses the Jehangir Art Gallery at one end, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) on the other, Regal opened on October 14, 1934. It was built by Framji Sidhwa as the “best cinema East of Suez” and offered many new things including India’s first underground car park and was Asia’s first air conditioned theatre.
Now Despite the multi-screen boom, Regal remains a favourite among sentimental patrons, who love watching films on its big screen. The acoustics of the theatre, its wide-angle screen and the tasty samosas are a major draw.
First show: The Devil’s Brother (Laurel & Hardy film);
At Opposite CSMVS, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba
Then Opened in 1969, Sterling Cinema was a frontrunner in many things — right from being the first to introduce Dolby sound and Xenon projectors, to caramel popcorn and matinee as well late night shows. The steps of Sterling were always a favourite hangout for college students and sometimes, passersby. It was also the sight for an infamous robbery in 1999. It screened only English films.
Now The theatre closed in 2006 for renovation and in May 2007, it re-opened as Sterling Cineplex, a shining multiplex with Spiderman 3 and Yatra. The theatre now screens Hindi and English films and its steps remain a popular hangout place.
First show: Dr Doolittle (1967)
At 65, Murzban Road, Fort
6. New Excelsior
Then With the arrival of talkies, and with Capitol being converted into a talkies, Novelty Theatre was brought down and Excelsior came into existence. The theatre showed its first talkie film on February 21, 1928. It has been the site for historic screenings including a charity screening of Sholay where the entire cast gathered. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas was also premiered at New Excelsior.
Now Like every other single screen theatre in Mumbai, New Excelsior is also struggling to keep up with the multiplex boom. Poor maintenance and grubby interiors deter cinegoers from paying a visit to the theatre, but it’s a still favourite for those who love to catch a film on a large screen.
First show: The Melody of Love
At Dr Dadabhai Naoroji Road, Fort
7. New Empire
Then Opened in 1937, New Empire Cinema was a hot favourite among Fort’s officegoers to catch a late Saturday afternoon show and among the St Xavier’s College students and couples who loved the corner seats. Situated close to New Excelsior and behind Capitol Cinema, it was built along the lines of Art Deco influences. The New Empire Cinema initially screened Western films dubbed into Hindi, and East Indian films.
Now The theatre is struggling to fill its entire seating capacity, but it continues to draw in collegians, office junta and the nearby residents, both young and old. Its sound quality is still considered to be one of the best.
At New Empire Building, Fort