There is new hope for Salt Lake’s first cinema-that-never-was. The project, which has been in the pipeline for years, is now to be managed by Priya Entertainment Ltd, owners of the Priya and Globe cinemas in the city.
The structure for the one-screen hall, at DD 32, has been complete since December 2000, according to the owner, Binayak Paul Chowdhury of B.M. Paul Chowdhury & Co Ltd. Being constructed with “internal funds”, the project was halted each time there was a cash crunch.
They finally approached Arijit Dutta to run the hall “on a day-to-day basis”, though the terms are yet to be decided.
The hall, dubbed Shivam, close to the City Centre mall that is coming up near Central Park, will house “800-900” viewers. “We will run a combination of English, Bengali and Hindi films,” explains Dutta of Priya Entertainment Ltd.
The first phase of the project — which involves throwing the hall open to moviegoers — should be completed by August “at the latest”. A sprawling lobby and spacious auditorium are the main priority.
“Though the hall could accommodate an audience of 1,000, we will restrict the number of seats to provide more leg-space,” says Dutta. Starting off with the “standard concession stands”, the second phase will see a basement restaurant, an open-air eatery and a pub, according to Paul Chowdhury and Dutta.
“We will wait till the hall is running for six months before we start working on the second phase of the project,” adds Dutta. A further investment of “at least Rs 1.5 crore” will be required to complete the interiors of the hall, keeping in mind the investment required to instal proper fire-safety and electrical equipment.
The monopoly enjoyed by the township’s first hall will be affected by the INOX movie multiplex at City Centre, which is to have four screens, but Dutta expects it to benefit Shivam in the long run.
“Malls work well because the total footfall is high. We should also benefit from the City Centre crowd, as our plot is just opposite the road,” feels Dutta. Like at Priya, Shivam may also see a mixed bag of films on a daily basis, in terms of both language and content.
“The night show is likely to be English, to attract the young crowd of Salt Lake.” Priya’s policy of having a number of films playing simultaneously for different shows has paid off and Dutta wants to duplicate this model.
The single screen at Shivam will also have an advantage for distributors of big-ticket films. “Big movies will still be released at larger halls, though they may shift to the smaller auditoriums of multiplexes later on,” says the Priya owner, who is now concentrating on consolidating the chain. Having taken over Gitanjali in Bolpur, where blockbusters are now being released on the same day as in the city, Dutta is looking at more halls in the semi-urban areas.
“Right now, good Bengali cinema does not go beyond Howrah. We hope to be able to spread its reach if we have a chain through the state.” Dutta’s long-term plans include possible facilities at Durgapur, Siliguri and Burdwan.