Old is Gold for New Empire

RBN Web Desk: Kolkata’s iconic New Empire cinema, once a premier destination for watching Hollywood films and live performances by internationally renowned artistes, won’t be converted to a multiplex. The hall is located in the heart of Kolkata in the cinema hall-district at Esplanade.

Many single-screen halls in the city have either downed shutters, or were converted to multi-screen theatres to run several shows simultaneously and attract better footfalls.

The present owner, John Mantosh, told the media that New Empire was recently renovated with the latest sound system and fully digital projection. The 86-year old hall has a seating capacity of 800. He, however, admitted that parking is a major issue at the theatre since hawkers have taken over the adjoining area. New Empire, John said, will remain a single-screen theatre at least for the next decade.

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New Empire opened its doors in 1932 and is steeped in history. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore staged a play at the theatre. That aside, the theatre was a venue for Uday Shankar ballets, and musical performances by eminent international conductors like Yehudi Menuhin and Zubin Mehta.

The hall underwent a major renovation in 2007 when the entire ground floor was converted to a gaming and food court. Only the balcony was retained for film shows.

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Mantosh said that leading freedom fighters and nationalists, including Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru, had visited the theatre during the pre-independence days. New Empire is a heritage structure, and will continue to be a standalone theatre, he added.

It may be recalled that Elite cinema, another prestigious single-screen theatre, was recently shut down as the owners were unable to sustain any further losses.

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