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By BY SUBHRO SAHA in Calcutta
  • Published 7.07.02
Calcutta, July 7 :    Calcutta, July 7:  A slice of Leicester Square or Covent Garden in the heart of Esplanade. Utopia? Maybe not. A "dream" multiplex model drawn up by Metro cinema promises to offer a whole new experience for cine-lovers. And it could even trigger a "holistic rejuvenation" of the Metro Channel, now in an advanced stage of urban decay. The facelift formula drawn up by the management of the vintage cinema established by the Metro Goldwyn-Mayer stable in 1935, is being given shape by architect Dulal Mukherjee. "We don't want Metro to remain just a movie theatre. It will become a complete entertainment destination, offering something to everyone from eight to 80. We could even alter our sales pitch saying 'we also screen movies'. We could have done it in our Mumbai Metro, but we owe this to Calcuttans," says Hemendra Dave,CEO of Metro Theatre Calcutta Limited. At the core of the diversification scheme will be a triple-screen multiplex, the largest seating 700 and two others accommodating around 400 and 350. "One of the smaller halls will have a deeper stage so that it can double as an experimental theatre hall," says manager Sanjeev Khandelwal. The theatres will have push-back luxury chairs, xenon-lamp projectors "for the ultimate light effect", digital theatre sound with five amplifiers of 1,310 watts each, central air-conditioning, tele-booking and online credit-card booking. Plus, a games arcade, soda fountain, multi-cuisine food court, coffee bar, a books, music and gifts store, a film archive of old classics from big studios like MGM, Warner, Columbia-Tristar... Even a children's corner, where kids can "be themselves" while the parents enjoy a movie. But round the corner, at Lighthouse, the mood is quite the opposite. The cinema that had shut down to reinvent itself, has shelved its multiplex plan. "Despite the recent government push, cinema business in Calcutta is on a slide. So, while we're planning an ice-skating rink, a multi-games arcade and restaurants, the theatre will remain single screen," said John Mantosh, owner of Lighthouse and New Empire. Twenty-nine-year-old Dave, however, is confident of a turnaround once the Corporation clears the project and the Metro multiplex is in place. "We hope to make Metro the most happening place in town... Metro was the first cinema to bring magnetic four-track sound to the city with Ben Hur and we are again first off the blocks with a digital eight-channel sound track," says Dave. Dulal Mukherjee plans to sink in a twin-level car park for "around 40 cars" beneath the refurbished and "slightly raised" theatre complex. "It will be a conservation-cum-reuse project," explains the architect, who wants to retain the entire façade of the "art nouveau" building, typical of the early 20th Century, "post-cubism style". Keen to look at the Metro multiplex project as part of a holistic urban renewal scheme for the entire zone, Mukherjee wants to link the marquee in front of the theatre to the Metropolitan Building through "a structured sidewalk". The possibilities of including the now-shut Café de Monico in the larger picture, are also being explored. The aim: "to recreate the lost charm of Esplanade and give it the character of a truly international city square it was meant to be".