Curtains came down on Relief Cinema following the screening of the last show of a Shah Rukh Khan movie on Friday. The famed theatre is all set to join the league of Krishna, Prakash, Natraj and a host of other single-screen cinemas that have shut shop in the city. Along with the financial non-viability of running single-screen theatres, shooting realty rates have rung the death-knell for these cinemas.
The 60-year-old Relief Cinema was not just a movie hall but a landmark of Ahmedabad. Although the road from Electricity House to Kalupur railway station has been officially named Lokmanya Tilak Road, it is still known as Relief Road.
During the golden period of movie halls between 1971 and 1992, film buffs had a wider choice despite the fact that there were no multiplexes 35 years ago. At that time, more than a dozen single-screen theatres were located within a two kilometre radius of Relief Road and 82 cinemas in total across the city.
Now, only Rupam has survived in the truest sense. Other cinema halls have passed into history by making way for commercial complexes.
Krishna Talkies, where people used to queue up at night to buy tickets for next day’s show, has been converted into Murti Mant Complex, housing electronic goods shops.
Similarly, Laxmi, LN, Prakash and Light House have been converted into readymade garment markets.
The period between 1971 and 1992 was the golden period for cinemas in the city, recalled Mukund Shah and Himanshu Trivedi, who worked in the cinema hall management industry for a long time. Walking down memory lane, the duo fondly remembered how they used to screen one movie for 25 weeks and get a houseful for all shows that stretched to more than 10 weeks.
They cited riots, entertainment tax policy, competition from multiplex, high maintenance cost, lack of quality films and shooting realty rates as major reasons for the downfall of single-screen theatres in the city.
“The five-month curfew in 1985 was a huge blow to movie halls in the city. Though single-screen theatres were doing well till 1992, it shook the confidence of theatre owners,” said Mukund Shah, who retired as manager of Rupam cinema.
Moreover, the central government provided duty relief on the import of colour TV at the time of Asian Games in 1982, which provided an alternative medium of entertainment in the form of using video players and thus harming the movie business, felt experts.
Trivedi, who worked as manager for five theatres and is now manager of Karnavati Club, said the maintenance of single-screen cinema was quite high compared to that of a multiplex. “Today, movies make big business in a short time.
So, single-screen theatres do not get much business,” he rued.
The single-screen theatres hardly get 40% as rent against their capacity, while multiplex owners rake in 45% share of the income in the first week and another 40% in the second week, said experts. Even the audience profile has changed with the times, they added.
“Earlier, women’s share of the audience used to be 90%, which has drastically come down to just 10% now,” said Govind Patel, producer of Gujarati movies and a distributor as well.