The red carpet is being rolled out, and a swanky red Aston Martin is revving. The lights are lit for Daniel Craig’s fifth and final appearance as James Bond at Delhi’s iconic PVR Saket — erstwhile Anupam. The choice of the film, No Time to Die, seemed apt to herald the revival of India’s first multiplex, which had opened in 1997 but which lost its pull over time. So in 2019, just before the pandemic struck, the cinema closed down for a revamp. And on Thursday, it reopened after a plush makeover as a legacy property.
The revamped multiplex boasts modern interiors. Self-ticketing booths replace box office ticketing counters. Large LED screens in the foyer offer a dynamic experience to movie-goers. With a total seating capacity of 745, the largest auditorium can accommodate 302 people – 151 with the current social distancing norms. And the two smaller auditoriums can seat 93 people — suited for private screenings, a preferred way of returning to cinema in a pandemic.
Shelly (she gives only her first name), a local resident, who has memories of watching five movies back to back at PVR Anupam 23 years ago recalls that the seats then were rather cramped. The seating now offers more space and legroom. The auditoriums are powered by Christie 4K projectors that deliver ultra-high resolution.
They are fitted with Clarus and Perlux Screens from Harkness, which create visibly deeper 3D content and outstanding brightness. And the Dolby ATMOS sound with pro-ribbon HF provides an immersive surround sound system.
The main foyer features the legacy wall, portraying blockbusters such as Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai that were screened at the multiplex. It is a space that celebrates the iconic theatre and people’s love for cinema.
“It is a proud moment for us to finally re-open our legacy property,” says Ajay Bijli, chairman and MD, PVR Cinemas. “PVR Saket is extremely close to our heart as it was the first multiplex in India, where we picked up our skills and learnings in a nascent industry. With a huge pent-up demand from movie connoisseurs, we are ready to welcome them to our safe and secure cinemas.”
“The pandemic has been tough. For six months we had almost zero revenue. So, every time the state governments allowed us to open, we took the opportunity to do so. Just like after the Spanish influenza, we saw the roaring '20s, now that the pandemic has ebbed out, we—the last sector to reopen—are also grateful,” said Sanjeev Bijli, joint MD, PVR.
When asked about the comparison with OTT platforms, he said, “I think it is unfair to compare two mediums when one is shut. With the Maharashtra government allowing theatres to reopen after October 22, as many as 30 producers have lined up as they too understand the value of the big screen. People want to be out after being cooped up inside their homes for more than a year. Going to the cinema is an escape after all.”
Raju, a bookseller in the Saket community centre, which houses the multiplex, is hopeful that with the action back on the screen, business will also pick up again. If Day 1 was a trailer, when, besides Jamaican Ambassador R Masakui, Delhi’s who’s who turned up, the days ahead seem promising.