City Cinemas – SRS, JAM, BIG, MMX, G3S

Hit Hai?

The PVRisation of film halls.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

DU, DUSU, CP, SN, DDLJ, GK1, RTI, SRK, SEZ, HC, SC, PMO, K3G… intimidated by acronyms and abbreviations? Try reading the schedule of city’s cinema halls in the newspaper. Rather than films, you will be more fascinated by the names of the theaters. DT in Shalimar Bagh. M4U and JAM in Ghazibad. PVR in Naraina. M2K in Rohini.


That is: What is this?

Delhi has 99 screens in 56 cinemas, out of which 17 are multiplexes. So, imagine the plight of an SRK fan looking for a film at, say, EDM’s PVR. Don’t know what EDM is? It’s the East Delhi Mall, Anand Vihar. SRK stands for superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Don’t ask about PVR.

In the Forties, there were less than 10 cinemas in town, almost all in Old Delhi, and all had names that were easy on the tongue — Ritz, Novelty, Regal. Delhiites called them by the area in which they were located, e.g. ‘Let’s go to Kashmere Gate’, since Ritz was there.

As more theatres cropped up in different parts of the city, the location-specific reference gave way to the theatre’s proper name. And they became landmarks of the area, rather than taking their identity from the area. For instance, the region around Filmistan talkies, just before Bara Hindu Rao Chowk, is simply called Filmistan.

In 1961, a gentleman named DC Kaushish opened India’s first 70mm theatre in Paharganj and named it after his wife, Sheila. Mrs Kaushish died in 2005 but Sheila theatre lives. Savitri, in GK-II, shut down years ago but the bus stop is still called ‘Savitri’. Sangam, at RK Puram, also comes in handy for giving directions.

But for the city’s new theatres, this is the age of ‘initialism’. It began when Ajay Bijli of Basant Lok’s Priya cinema started a venture with the Australian company Village Roadshow. The result was Priya Village Roadshow (PVR) Cinemas. The company turned Saket’s rundown Anupam theatre into India’s first multiplex. After 9/11, the Australians pulled out, but Mr Bijli retained the brand name and PVR-ised the city. His multiplexes popped up in places as far away as Prashant Vihar in north Delhi and Vikaspuri in west.

The multiplex chains are continuing with their forward march. They are growing and taking over older, standalone theatres, and, in the process, creating new names. In August, 2009, the 70-year-old Odeon cinema in Connaught Place opened as the two-screen Big Cinemas Odeon. (Big Cinemas is a division of the corporate subsidiary Adlabs Films.) Nearby Rivoli and Plaza had got their makeovers already, stamped with the brand that took control.

Inevitably, the city’s movie buffs are as spoilt for these abbreviated names as for films. Sample these: DT, SRS, JAM, BIG, MMX, M4U, M2K, G3S and 3C’s.

Exceptions occur. Opened in 1954, Delite cinema in Asaf Ali Marg was renovated half-a-century later with Spanish paint and Italian marbles. It, however, retains its original name. Until, perhaps, the next chain comes along.

… Outside Delite’s box office

Box Office Flop