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The most stylish theatres to watch a Bollywood film

By Monali Sarkar
December 29, 2016 09:37 IST
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BollywoodWith Mumbai's iconic Liberty cinema reopening for movie lovers, the spotlight is now on the city's famous Art Deco theatres.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Mumbai has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world?


LIBERTY: This opulent Art Deco theatre built by Habib Hoosein, opened in 1949 with the Nargis-Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor starrer Andaz. David Vinnels and Brent Skelly describe Liberty as 'an exquisite jewel box of rococo decoration enhanced by a coloured lighting scheme suggesting a fairyland far away from the bustle and tumult in the streets outside' in their book Bollywood Showplaces: Cinema Theatres in India.

The theatre had a dream run till the rise of multiplexes began to hurt most single-screen theatres. It stopped screening films in 2012, shifting focus to events, shoots and other activities to sustain itself.

Photograph: Courtesy Liberty/Facebook.

However, this year the theatre -- now run by Habib Hoosein's son Nazir Hoosein, a worthy custodian of the rich Art Deco heritage of the theater  -- reopened its doors to movie goers with the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal. Liberty plans to straddle movies and other forms of entertainment, bringing it into the new era. 

Sohel Kazani of Liberty says, "We want to revive the single-screen experience for the generation that has grown up watching films at multiplexes."

Fun fact: Sooraj Barjatya's Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! premiered at Liberty cinema on August 5 1994 and ran for more than 100 weeks. It gave the theatre a new lease of life.

Photographs: Courtesy Liberty.

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Regal Cinema

REGAL: The theatre located in Colaba, was built by Framji Sidhwa and opened in 1933 with the screening of Laurel and Hardy's The Devil's Brother

It was designed by Charles Stevens, the son of the famous 19th century architect, F W Stevens, who designed Mumbai's Victoria Terminus AKA the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The interiors were designed by a Czech artist, Karl Schara. The Art Deco style originated in the 1920s and remained as a popular style through the 1930s.

Fun fact: Regal is the first movie theatre in India to have air conditioning and an underground car park.



EROS: This theater opened in early 1938. It was designed by architect Shorabji Bhedwar. 

Eros inside

A peek inside. The construction of Eros started in 1935, marking the beginning of Mumbai's Back Bay reclamation.

Fun fact: The font used to spell out Eros has been the same since the theatre opened.

Photographs: Courtesy Sandra Cohen-Rose/

Metro cinema

METRO: This cinema too opened in 1938 and was originally run by the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The main architect of the cinema was Thomas W Lamb of New York City, who was instrumental in the construction of the most famous 'movie palaces' in the United States. The interiors had murals executed by students of the J J School of Art.

The theatre was taken over by an Indian family in 1970, heralding the era where it emerged as Bollywood's favourite premiere venue. Raj Kapoor's Bobby and Satyam Shivam Sundaram premiered here.

With the advent of mulitplexes, the Art Deco theatre underwent a massive retrofitting in 2006 and reopened as Metro Adlabs. It soon became Metro Big Cinema and is now Metro INOX.

Fun fact: Among the famous visitors to the theatre was Hollywood legend Gregory Peck.


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New Empire

NEW EMPIRE: Originally called the Empire Theatre, it opened in 1908 as a venue for live theatre. It was an elaborate Victorian structure. It was rebuilt in the Art Deco style in 1948. Incidentally, it was the first theatre in Asia to have a cantilevered balcony. New Empire became another victim of multiplexes and shut its doors in March 2014.

Fun fact:The first film New Empire screened was the talkie Vagabond King in 1930.


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Monali Sarkar /