New Delhi's iconic Regal Cinema, an 84-year-old movie theatre that has survived high tax on entertainment, competition from multiplexes and piracy, may finally have to shut down due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive.
According to the Hindustan Times, Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, scheduled for release on Friday, could be the last movie to be screened at the iconic theatre.
"Business has been down for a decade, but last month's collections were the worst. We got just Rs 4 lakh from Befikre (a romantic comedy starring Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor) while we expected at least Rs 10 lakh. We are unable to recover even the operating costs. Half the money we get from the tickets goes to the distributor. It costs us over Rs 2 lakh a week to run a show," Vishal Choudhary, owner of Regal Cinema built at Connaught Place in 1932, told the daily.
Choudhary added that the cinema hall has cancelled night shows six times in a month and that Dangal could be the last movie to be screened if this situation continues. The owners are also required to pay 40 percent of the price of the tickets as entertainment tax.
The movie hall is witness to late superstars Raj Kapoor and Nargis coming to attend film premieres.
"We wanted to bring back those days, but now we don't know how long we will be able to run our business. If a person gets Rs 2,000 after standing for hours in a bank queue, do you think he will spend that money on movies?" Choudhary told the daily.
The owner expressed sorrow over the way governments continue to treat single-screen theatres and said: "For years, we have been seeking permission to convert Regal Cinema into a multiplex. But while several others in the vicinity were allowed to do so, our requests were turned down."
The first two floors of the Regal Building were sold to Madame Tussauds in 1996 for their famous wax museum. The ground floor still belongs to Choudhary.
Another movie hall Vishal Cineplex, which is the biggest surviving single-screen theatre situated in west Delhi's Rajouri Garden, "might close anytime" soon if this situation prevails with only 12 to 15 people coming for their night shows.
Out of the seating capacity of 1,400 people, 15 percent of the seats would be occupied before Modi announced his decision to demonetise high-value currency notes, theatre manager SR Talwar told HT adding that bookings have gone down to less than five percent in a month.
Talwar has seen veteran actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor coming to visit Vishal Cineplex.
"It was the only cinema hall between Model Town and Rajouri Garden. It's been like a child to me. It is painful to see that people are not coming, despite prices being kept in the Rs 70-Rs 150 bracket," he told the daily.