A Smiling Usher, Some Popcorn, and a Movie

Over the weekend, I discovered a “new” single-screen theater in Lower Parel; it used to be a dilapidated building sitting at the edge of the intersection of Pandurang Budhkar Marg and N. M. Joshi Road. Deepak Talkies, which now houses the auspices of the Matterden Center for Films and Creation, underwent a transformation early this year and screens art cinema and classics that pander to the tastes of movie-buffs across the city. I bought tickets for a late-evening screening of Gone Girl and was pleasantly surprised to see the usher – and I should add here that he didn’t look like one – standing at the entrance, warmly greeting patrons as they made their way inside. The entrance opened into a courtyard, at the other end of which stood a two-storied movie hall with extremely comfortable seats, a slightly smaller screen, and a polite and smiling staff. And when I compare this experience to some of the others I’ve had at theaters and movie halls across the city, this one stands out, not just because of the kind of service I received but also for what I paid for it. By virtue of the fact that my office is in Vikroli, most of my movie outings over the last few months have been to venues and locations owned by multiplex chains along LBS Marg. While I agree that the modern-day multiplex patron is spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a location and a show, I also believe that there are significant gaps in the experience that these screens currently provide! More often than not, I find myself complaining about the ergonomics, a product of the notion that the multiplex was born to cater to the masses and had to be designed to accommodate as many patrons as it could. My grouse is this: if I’m paying twice of what I paid at Deepak Talkies for a mainstream movie on a weekend, it is my right to expect comfortable seats. And seats with armrests wide enough for two people. And seats with enough legroom to allow someone to pass without crushing my toes. It is also my right to expect the movie to start on time and not after 15 minutes of incessant commercials and advertisements. God knows I get enough of those on TV, without having to put up with them on a platform where I’m actually paying a premium for content. Yes, those rodent-infested theaters with stinking toilets and canteens serving stale popcorn and glass bottles of Gold Spot with rusted caps are a thing of the past! But they’ve been replaced by the multiplex, where I often pay through my nose for an experience not too pleasing! I expect more… Much more!

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