The 80-year-old Prabhat Theater is one of the oldest single screen theatres in Pune and only screens Marathi movies. The GUIDE spoke to its owner to find out how they manage to survive in this competitive business
Prabhat Theater is one of the oldest single screen theatres to screen Marathi movies in the city. In 1934, Sardar Ramchandra Mukundrao Kibe built the Kibe Laxmi Theatre and almost at the same time, the Kolhapur-based Prabhat Film Company shifted to Pune. The Kibe Laxmi Theatre was bought by Prabhat Film Company and its distributor M/s Famous Pictures of Mumbai renamed it Prabhat Talkies.
Prabhat Theater was started in 1934. Pics/Mohan Patil
The first show at Prabhat Talkies was held on September 21, 1934, with the screening of the English film, Love Me Tonight. The theatre also had a massive well-equipped stage where dramas like the musical play of MG Rangekar, Kulvadhu, used to be staged.
The ticket counter at the theatre
“Now, for the last 40 years, we have decided to only screen Marathi movies. At times, we have losses but that is okay. We have taken this decision and we will always stand by it,” said Vivek Damble, director of Prabhat Theater and the grandson of filmmaker Vishnupant Govind Damle.
Initially, the theatre had screened English films for a month. “I remember seeing the movie, Gopi, here as a child which was one of my favourites then. There was a cry box in the theatre in the earlier times for ladies who came with their kids. The box was made of glass so if the kid cries, the other people would not be disturbed and the women would also get to see the movie in the box.”
He adds that lots of directors and actors used to come here to see movies as they could see the reaction of the audience on the spot.
The popular Marathi film, Maherchi Saadi, went on to create history with a consecutive run of over two years at the theatre. Till date, 34 Marathi and nine Hindi films have celebrated their silver jubilee at Prabhat.
With the passage of time, the carbon tubes have given way to xenon bulbs and the sound system has been upgraded to Dolby. Presently, the entire theatre has only ground and balcony class seating with 894 seats.
Damble emphasises that since they are proud of their history, they do not plan to make major changes in the theatre.
But he is keen on changing the seating arrangements and the ventilation though he doesn’t want to make it an air conditioned theatre. He also hopes that the government gives them permission to make it a two-screen theatre.
As of now, there are five shows of three Marathi movies at 10.30 am, 1 pm, 3.15 pm, 6 pm and 9 pm.
PS Wagh, the manager of the theatre, who is 78 years old, said, “We used to have premieres of almost all the Marathi movies here earlier, but in the recent past it does not happen. The directors and actors do come here for the first show of their movie and do puja of the equipments at times.”
He also admits that while they earn less profits as compared to the multiplexes, they are happy with their business.”
While multiplexes have had a lot of headway, Damle admits that single screen theatres will not die out either. “There will always be an audience for it. We do face competition but then we take it in a positive way. We have the same rates for the shows; there are no different show rates for the weekends. Our theatre is the in the middle of the city, so it’s safe as well,” he concludes.
At Prabhat Theater, Appa Balawant Chowk, Narayan Peth.