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Chanakya theatre, that first came up in 1970 with the showcase of Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, was a landmark for its time in the national capital. Photo: HT
Chanakya theatre, that first came up in 1970 with the showcase of Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, was a landmark for its time in the national capital. Photo: HT

PVR revamps iconic Chanakya theatre into Delhi’s first ECX multiplex

PVR announced the relaunch of its Chanakya theatre, its 600th screen in the country, into Delhi's first ECX multiplex marked by enhanced sound, images and realism

New Delhi: It was an extra special Friday for the movie buffs in Delhi. The constant drizzle notwithstanding, hordes of film fans flocked to the iconic Chanakya theatre, a favourite haunt for the young student crowd of the 1980s and 90s, to catch a new show nearly a decade after the cinema hall pulled its curtains down.

Marking its 600th screen in the country, cinema exhibition chain PVR Ltd announced the relaunch of the much-loved theatre into the city’s first ECX multiplex. ECX, or enhanced cinema experience, is a PVR initiative marked by enhanced sound, images, realism, comfort and convenience, previously present only in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Chanakya, that first came up in 1970 with the showcase of Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker, was a landmark for its time in the national capital. Through the 1980s and 90s, the diplomatic enclave was known for one of the first outlets of legendary fast food chain, Nirula’s, extensive parking and Chinese eateries that offered momos before they became India’s favourite street food.

Frequented by foreigners who flocked to the nearby leather market and the elite diplomatic circle, Chanakya is best remembered for its collection of Hollywood offerings including romantic dramas like Dirty Dancing (1987).

But it’s not like Bollywood was any far behind. Ejaz Zia, a freelance media professional, flocked the theatre for years, having watched everything from Sanam Teri Kasam (1982) to Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (1994).

“Now you have four or five screens in the same space. But the large auditorium in theatres like Chanakya then would give you the wholesome movie experience," Zia said. “Of course the Chinese outlets outside were a crowd puller and with the Yashwant Place market, it was a very attractive area."

Now revamped into a three-screen property located in Delhi’s posh Chanakyapuri area with a seating capacity of 1,001, the theatre will be part of The Chanakya Mall, a luxury retail curation by DLF near the Yashwant Place Community Centre. The theatre will be housed in the mall that DLF plans to build as part of a public private partnership (PPP) with the New Delhi Municipal Council that owns the property in Chanakyapuri.

“Chanakya has huge nostalgic value. People know it for expansive cinema since it provided a large set-up (in its heydays) and we wanted to add a posh and premium feel to it," said Gautam Dutta, chief executive officer, PVR Ltd. “That’s when we realized we have this concept of ECX, prompted by 4K projection, second-generation 3D and back-row leather seating which Delhi hasn’t really seen so we thought it would be a perfect fit."

Dutta added that the ECX theatres have been huge success stories in other Indian cities where audiences remember the particular theatre for enhanced viewing. Pricing in the Delhi Chanakya theatre will range from Rs150-550, with the back row recliners costing the maximum, especially for a big-ticket tent-pole film.

To be sure, Chanakya is only the beginning of a lot of expansion plans the PVR chain has in the pipeline.

“We have almost 100 odd screens under construction at any point of time. This is an iconic property and is being talked about hence. But we have several others in the pipeline," said Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR. “We should be opening about 50 screens before the end of this financial year."

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