Thursday, January 01, 2009

Multiplexes and the New Minority

The advent of the multiplex in India has condemned the friendly neighborhood movie hall to a slow and painful death.Gone are the days when school kids and college students queued up outside theaters to buy tickets well in advance.People wore their best outfits.While the traditional preferred to look immaculate with not a strand of hair out of place,the rest came with a carefully crafted 'bohemian' look.People bought modest little packets of popcorn and small cups of Coke.The ushers at the hall would check tickets with a practiced nonchalance as they admitted familiar and unfamiliar customers.People reclined in their seats and watched every advertisement and movie trailer with bated breath.An air conditioned hall was an added luxury and a balcony seat was considered truly elite.

Multiplexes are air conditioned by default.The concept of the balcony seat no longer exists.One can buy popcorn only in large buckets that never seem to finish and the coke glasses are also gigantic in comparison to their 'small hall' counterparts.There are no long queues outside multiplexes thanks to plastic credit and the internet.The ushers at multiplexes remind one of stern matrons in Enid Blyton stories; they stand with discerning expressions on their faces as they run metal detectors all over one's belongings.Most small time theaters have been torn down to make space for bigger multiplexes.The remainder of this dying breed are nevertheless valiant and standing unfazed.

The new minority are frequented by those who don't particularly enjoy watching movies at home and at the same time don't want to spend a fortune at a multiplex.The little halls are rarely full and it is possible to get balcony seats five minutes before a show.Audiences here lack the curt propriety of multiplex audiences.Screen heroes are greeted with standing ovations,comedians are treated to boisterous laughter and potential box office flops are subject to uncharitable banter and cat calls.Smaller movie halls also provide respite to secret lovers meeting incognito.

It is for us to see how many of these miniature stalwarts will withstand the ravages of time and intimidating theater chains.Here's to stuffy halls,unpretentious audiences and tiny helpings of popcorn.Long live the new minority!