| A refurbished bar at the new-look Roxy. Picture by Aranya Sen
At a time when standalone theatres are on their way to a slow death, thanks to the multiplex boom, a hall in the heart of the city is struggling to revive a bit of its past glory.
After Paradise, on Bentinck Street, which saw a section of its audience return after a makeover, Roxy cinema is in the process of getting a facelift.
The hall on Chowringhee Approach now has refurbished interiors, a new air-conditioning tower, Dolby Digital sound, modern seats and a bigger screen in the first phase.
'We have reduced the number of seats from 840 to 730 for better visibility. We've replaced the old wooden chairs, put a fresh coat on the walls and also installed channel music,' says Arun Mehra, director of both Roxy and Paradise.
The makeover move involves expenses to the tune of Rs 35 lakh, but Mehra feels it is worth the effort. 'Where is the middle class going to go' If you provide the same quality and comfort as that of a multiplex, they are bound to come. We are happy with the results at Paradise. We didn't jack up our food prices even after the renovation and the middle-class balcony crowd, which we had lost, is coming back,' says Mehra, who feels Roxy benefits from the walk-in crowd of Orient, too, which closed down last year under the weight of huge losses.
The second phase has seen the bars on the first and second floors of Roxy being jazzed up with fresh interiors and live bands. Besides, Mehra plans to open a fast-food restaurant on the ground floor.
Roxy, which was once an opera house, was converted into a cinema in the early Forties. The giant screen first flickered with the Ashok Kumar-starrer Naya Sansar in 1941. 'The hall had high banisters and during the conversion, we had to reduce the stage height. During World War II, the army took over Roxy and turned it into a barrack,' says Mehra.
The hall-owner takes pride in the fact that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had dropped in to watch Kismat, starring Ashok Kumar, here.
The film, released in 1943, ran for nearly four years ' all shows for 184 weeks ' recording the longest tenure in the hall's history. Roxy's golden period covered films like Mahal, Aayee Milan Ki Bela, Love in Tokyo, Kati Patang and Kora Kagaz, among others.
In the following years, the 1,118-seater Paradise grabbed all the blockbusters, while Roxy played second fiddle with niche Hindi films ' all Ram Gopal Varma ventures for one ' and offshore biggies like Bend it Like Beckham, Spider-Man, Men in Black and Monsoon Wedding.