Shimla’s only single-screen Shahi Theatre reopens

Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 5

Shahi Theatre, the lone single-screen cinema in Shimla, reopened today after a gap of almost two years. "It was shut down in March last year, when the lockdown was announced. It feels great to open up the theatre for people after such a long time," said Sahil Sharma, owner of the theatre.

"In the two shows today, around 50 people in for both the shows," he said.

Incidentally, Shimla had four single-screen theatres, Regal, Rivoli, Ritz from the colonial era and Shahi, which started screening movies from 1953. While Regal was gutted in the mid-80s, Rivoli shut shop in 2010, when the district administration did not renew its licence and declared the building unsafe. A few days back, the Municipal Corporation issued orders to demolish the building.

Ritz and Shahi, however, continued despite the mounting costs and falling profits until Covid-19. While Ritz folded up operations in the middle of the pandemic earlier this year, Shahi has reopened to see how long it can continue in the times that are no longer conducive for single-screen cinema.

"Running a single-screen cinema has become a loss-making proposition. Distributors don't offer good money to single screens and the price of tickets is also very nominal," said Sharma.

"The government needs to extend a helping hand to single screens. We have already lost three single-screen theatres in the city, and Shahi is the only one left. These theatres should have been preserved, as people have so many memories associated with them," said Sharma.

All four cinemas were located in the heart of the town, only a kilometre or so from each other. The cinemagoers had a wonderful time when all these four theaters were running. "There were people, who watched four shows in a day, one each in all of these four theatres," recalled Sharma. While the other three catered mainly to the gentry, Shahi was primarily opened for the common man. "We mainly catered to labour class and youth, as we charged much less compared to other cinemas. Many a time, contractors brought labourers for a show before and after the apple harvesting season," said Sharma.

With multiplexes almost beyond of the reach of lower income groups, the reopening of Shahi is indeed a welcoming development.

Suffering losses

Running a single-screen cinema has become a loss-making proposition. Distributors don't offer good money to single screens and the price of tickets is also very nominal. Sahil Sharma, owner of theatre

Courtesy: Tribune News Service
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