78-year-old iconic Elite Cinema of Kolkata closed forever

Once owned by 20th Century Fox, the iconic Elite Cinema here has joined the list of single screens dropping curtains forever, unable to cope with competition in an era of multiplexes and the internet.

The 78-year old auditorium in central Kolkata ended its journey with a notice pasted at the entrance that announced “permanent and irrevocable closure” with effect from June 1.

Manager Shambhukumar Batabyal admitted that the owners have been incurring huge losses.

“We have 1,228 seats…. the average of seat occupancy throughout the year is just 1-2 per cent, which makes it difficult for us to run it,” he said.

An IANS correspondent on Wednesday found the gates of Elite Cinema locked with none of its employees seen in the vicinity.

Located in the bustling Dharamsala area, the hall till a few years back was a popular draw among the youth as also families. It boasts of an enviable guest list including the likes of Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan.

With the advent of multiplexes and fast internet, Elite cinema, like most other single screens, had lost its sheen.

“It pulled huge crowds in the past, but the struggle began since last five years. Everyone now visits a multiplex in a mall or streams videos on their mobile,” said Tarachand, the owner of an adjoining betel shop running for almost 60 years.

Elite Cinema was opened on August 2, 1940 and was thronged by the ‘elite’ of erstwhile Calcutta, but on May 31 it ended its last show silently owing to the lack of audience.

The notice mentions that the management is unable to run the theatre due to heavy losses and debts. All the terminated employees have been asked to collect all their legal dues.

Elite Cinema was once owned by 20th Century Fox and famous photographic studio Bourne & Shepherd. Classics like “Gone with the Wind”, “Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady” had been screened here successfully for the audience.

Old timers still recall the mammoth queues during the screening of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer “Shahenshah”.

The cinema hall also had a bar attached which managed to attract a few footfalls. It was also closed in the month of March.

“The bar still managed to bring some business but with its closure on March 31, that also started diminishing,” said the betel shop owner.

Previously, many other halls in the city have ended their show. Metro, Grace, Ujjwala, Orient, Purna have become a part of history.

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