The birth of Single screens theatres in India can be traced back to early half of the 20th century. It was from then that the phenomenon of cinema slowly started spreading across India. Talking about Mumbai city, the Novelty and Empire theatres were built around 1907. The 1930's saw a boom of movie theatres with the Regal, the Central Plaza, New Empire, Broadway, Eros and Metro coming up. These theatres are architectural masterpieces and a reminder of the Royal British period. Most of these theatres are still running, some declared as heritage structures. Initially, these cinema halls played only English films, however over the period of time, due to increasing demand for Hindi films, they took on to screening popular Hindi films as well.
Over the years, the single screens have spread like an epidemic all over India. The increasing popularity of Hindi films led to the erection of cinema halls in every town in the country. In this section, we'll focus on single screens which play A-grade movies. The multiple screens (mentioned above) and the high standard single screens are similar. Hence, the following description applies for both.
Since these places play popular A-grade Hindi films, getting movie tickets isn't easy. It is like fighting a battle to win the tickets. The queues for movie tickets can be meters long. If you plan to watch a much hyped film with famous stars in the first week of its release, then you might surely experience the following. When the advanced bookings open, people just crowd at the ticket windows. Even if you go to theatre early in the morning, you'll find long queue at the ticket window. Now, normally the windows open at 10am sharp, but today, they will open at least an hour late. The crowd shouts and bangs the window but no use. It's close to noon and the sun is over your head, you are melting with heat, waiting for your turn. Adding to it, there are these weird characters who accompany you in the queue. Like a tobacco chewing guy behind you who gives his prediction of why this film will be a sure shot flop, because the actress doesn't have an item number. Finally, the window opens by 11:30am and people rush to the window. The vendor however, goes on at her own slow pace. In between this entire jumble, there are always some aunties who try to play dirty. Acting needy they might dupe you to buy tickets for their entire family. So beware. Besides, there is a high possibility of you engaging in a fist fight for some petty reason and getting back home with a broken jaw.
By the time you reach the window the weekends shows are full. You still request the lady behind the window to check if anything is available. But the arrogant mausi at the counter makes faces and yells to buy from shows that are available or just get off from the window. You have no choice left. In such situation try to search for a person in the crowds going sau ka teen sau (Rs.100 tickets for Rs.300). They are the black marketing dudes. They do sell tickets illegally at a higher price, but then you can catch the show you want to.Single and Multiple screen theatres are great places to catch a flick. They are divided in 2 or 3 floors and each floor is a separate zone. There is a stall, an upper stall, balcony etc. Let me now take you through these sections in the theatre.
Stall: The stall is the lowest section in the theatre, lowest in all terms. Getting a stall ticket is the cheapest way to watch a movie but if you ask me, it is also the liveliest experience. If you are not very serious about the film and just wish to have a blast then join this club. However, note that stall sections are like heat chambers with no ventilation. So be prepared to feel claustrophobic.
The stall is generally divided into upper stall and lower stall. Lower stall includes rows closer to the screen and if you happen to sit there, you'll have to stretch yourselves backwards and move your neck in all directions to catch the characters running onscreen. The lower stalls are mainly occupied by the tapori gang who are the most reactive audiences in the theatre. These people start whistling as the movie title appears. The hero is welcomed with claps and soon as the heroine makes a titillating appearance on the screen, the whole stall section goes wild. The whistles, shouts and nasty comments fill the theatre completely for next 3 minutes. When the popular tracks start, people get into the groove mood. The whistles start blowing again, there are some who try to imitate the actor's dance steps sitting on their seat itself (be prepared for some elbow knocks). Speaking of elbows, there is this major question that you'll encounter each time in theatre - Which person does the arm rest belong to? Ideally you would love to use both and watch the film like a king, but your neighbors keep pushing your arm off to occupy it. Then it's your turn, you too slide off his arm forcefully or tactfully occupy it when he lifts his arm to sip in cola.
Upper stall consists of rows at the back. The last few rows especially, are mainly occupied by young couples who obviously couldn't find any better place to romance. They are the only audiences who are not engrossed in the film at all because life has much more to offer to them at that point of time. So, just in case you turn back, you might catch a glimpse of another uncensored adult film playing live in the hall.
Balcony: As the name suggests, this section is like a balcony, a floor above the stall. Crowds in this part are not that wild, but a higher price for ticket does not guarantee a better company. In this section you'll mainly see big TV soaps like families coming together to celebrate their togetherness with a movie. There are also these newly married couples "trying" to get all cozy. The husbands act so over protective of their newly married wives as if they married Miss. Aishwarya Rai, who has come out in public for the first time.
The most common problem in balcony is blocking of view due to the front row people whose heads pop in the middle. You might try to dodge them for a while but no use. Adding to the distraction are your irritating neighbors. There is always this gutka-pan-masala chewing uncle who just can't get enough of it. He keeps distracting tearing one gutka pack after another and there is no end to the chewing sound. Sometimes things can get extremely weird. There are some families who actually go ahead and have dinner inside the movie hall watching the film. They pack their food from home and after occupying the seats; the mother serves and passes on the plates, in the movie hall. Beat that!
If you really want to grab some snacks at these theatres, better do it before interval. Because by interval, the crowd charges to the food counter and pounces on every eatable visible, which is not pretty. The men's toilet here are so strategically built that as soon as someone opens the door to enter or exit, the people in the lobby get a glorious display of your act.
The second half of the film begins loaded with action, emotion, drama! During action scenes whenever the villain knocks the hero down, the young girls become really sad and cursing the villain, so seriously, as if all this was real. Some even start crying out loud. After 3 hours, the movie ends, good guy kills bad guy, good guy gets a hot chick and everyone lives happily ever after. If the film is good, people whistle and shout at the screen and exit. But if it's bad, well you can't do much about it anyway. Just silent parade walks out.
Ticket rates: Anywhere between Rs. 40 - Rs. 120