Single-screen movie halls and talkies ruled long before Netflix, YouTube, and even multiplex theatres, with some going back to the 1930s. These theatres are now serving as relics of a bygone era. They are a reminder of how cinema theatres were once an essential cultural icon in every city for bringing people together under one roof. They are tucked away in bustling cities that today feature state-of-the-art multiplexes.
1. Capitol Cinema, Mumbai: Capitol Cinema, the city’s oldest theatre, opened in 1879 at the then-Victoria Terminus and held various plays throughout British rule. The inaugural showing here was for a British film called The Flag Lieutenant, which was attended by the Governor and his wife.
2. Poonam Theatre, Vizag: Sri GK Mangaraju transformed the Poorna Theatre in 1930, shortly after electrification services were available in Vizag, from Sri Krishna Touring talkies. Initially, silent films such as Bheeshma Pratijna, Nandanaar, and Gajendra Moksham were shown in the theatre.
3. Ritz Cinema and PVR Rivoli, Delhi: While the exact location of Delhi’s oldest cinema is uncertain, Ritz and Rivoli are two strong contenders. The Ritz, which is almost 80 years old and is located on Lothian Road, has only one screen.
4. Chaplin Cinema, Kolkata: Chaplin Cinema, also known as Elphinstone Picture Palace, was India’s first cinema hall, opening in 1907. It was not just the first of Jamshedji Framji Madan’s chain of cinemas in British India, but also the first permanent movie theatre in Calcutta.
5. Saffire Theatre: Sapphire Theatre in Chennai, which opened in 1964, was India’s first 70mm cinema and, along with Blue Diamond and Emerald, the country’s first multi-theatre complex. From 1964 through 1994, it was a cinema theatre that exhibited Hollywood films.
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