Sunday, May 13, 2007

Naya Sterling – Je Te N’Aime Pas

The new Sterling Cineplex opened finally to Spiderman 3. The ‘opening shortly’ banner hung there for almost a year. I used to see it every Sunday week after week when I went to treat Jerry one of the geriatric stray dogs that lives opposite Sterling. (Will write about him sometime).

Sterling Cineplex opened officially on May 4, 2007 to Spiderman 3 and Gautam Ghose’s Yatra but unfortunately with technical problems. There was a power failure and some friends told me that they had to go without seeing the movie they came for at one of the shows on the first day. Someone also told me that, the premiere of Spiderman on the earlier day which was being simultaneously screened on all three screens was a disaster as they had only one reel which kept getting relayed from one screen to the other. Thus the audiences of Screen 2 and 3 had to wait till the audience of Screen 1 had finished seeing the first reel.

A little history of Sterling is that it opened in 1969 and though it was not as old as some of the other theatres like Regal and Eros, it was still one of the few theatres in those days that showed only English movies. The 10:45 late night show was also very popular and created a niche slot for itself.

I went to the new Sterling Cineplex yesterday to see Paris, Je t’aime. It is a French film with a collection of 18 short stories made by renowned directors and an impressive cast. The theme revolves around the romantic city Paris and love. Check the NY Times review here.

When you approach the booking counters, you remember the old Sterling’s ticket windows which were separate for Balcony/Dress circle & Stalls and also for Current & Advance booking. They have now been replaced by a big glass window with BOX OFFICE written on top. The white marble steps which everyone used to sit on before the movie either waiting for the person accompanying them or for just whiling away their time, have been replaced by fewer black steps. I wonder if Raju the stray who died in June 2006 and who used to love sitting on them would have liked them now.

The tickets are now not checked at the entrance of the theater but inside on the steps which lead you upstairs. The lobby has been converted into a restaurant which was packed with people eating from the Blue Foods outlets of Bombay Blue & Noodle Bar, Subway, Gelato and Wraps and Rolls.

Do double check the correct stairs that will take you to your Screen. We took the right hand side stairs showed the tickets for screen 3 and went up to the second floor only to realize that Screen 3 was on the left hand side. The erstwhile Balcony/Dress Circle has been converted into Screen 2 and 3 and the Stalls into Screen 1.

The cafeteria on top has been handed over to Coffee Day. I ran into a friend who was debating with the CCD guy on how her Cold Coffee glass was only half filled. He claimed it was 220 ml in a glass of capacity 250 ml. No amount of principles of volume or physics could convince him that he was wrong. Anyway moral of the story is that now you won’t get that cup of ordinary chai anymore.

The Screen 2 and 3 have obviously smaller capacities but were not that small. Screen one should be better with a larger capacity and the management claims that the size of that screen is as big as the old one. Unfortunately, all single screen theatres would go the Sterling way some day due to the financial non-viability due to low occupancy.

Of course the Jai Jawan stall opposite is still the same and must be very happy that Sterling has finally opened as he must have taken a beating on his 'dhanda'.

So don’t go by my not liking the new Sterling as I am biased against multiplexes for various reasons.

1) The size of a multiplex theatre is smaller compared to the single screen ones. The whole charm in seeing a movie on the ‘big screen’ is gone. There are some multiplexes in Bandra that can accommodate only fifty people. See a movie at Eros and then go and see the same one at Gem in Bandra and you will know what I mean. It would be better to be at home and watch a movie on the DVD.

2) The good old colored and manually stamped cinema tickets are gone. Gone will be the days when you can collect the blue, yellow, green and pink colored tickets, write down the name of the girl who you went with and save it for posterity. The new machine generated tickets on facsimile paper will fade away in some time.

3) The prices have gone up drastically. All Sterling tickets are priced at Rs 120. Earlier, they used to start from Rs 60 for Lower stalls, Rs 80 for Upper stalls, Rs 100 for Balcony and Rs 120 for Dress Circle. Sterling might be the cheapest of the multiplexes in South Mumbai. If you go to INOX, you will have to shell out a minimum of Rs 180 going up to Rs 240. (Unless you want to see a movie at ten in the morning at Rs 130). Even a theatre like Kohinoor at Dadar which catered to the common man in the area has become a mall and the theatre in it called Fame Nakshtara prices tickets at Rs 80 onwards. (Kohinoor had rates of Rs 20 and Rs 40)

4) Prices of stuff that you would like to eat during the interval would also go up. So forget the Rs 15 wala Punjabi samosa or the Rs 15 popcorn. Of course, you can convert your movie expedition into a supper theatre experience by going early and having dinner at the various ‘outlets’ serving various cuisines at the multiplex.

5) Nostalgia and heritage: You always love what you have been doing when you were a kid. The various times you went to Regal, New Empire, Eros, Citylight, Opera House, and Hindmata with that special someone be it family, friend or sweetheart. Just the support that you would give to something old in the city, a landmark which has been around for years.

6) You will have to adhere to multiplex manners (whatever that means). A columnist wrote a whole article recently in the HT on multiplex manners.
Sterling photo courtesy: CNN IBN


Anil P said...

The first movie I ever saw in Bombay was in Sterling, I wonder how the renewal has now shaped it.

Strays said...

At Xaviers, it was either Metro or Sterling. It was the exclusivity of watching either the typical bollywood masala at Metro or the oh so real hollywood at Sterling. Unfortunately, the cosy theatres have been converted to srange if we had lesser CCDs or Bombay Blues!!
None of the multiplexes have a screen they can boast of, wonder what is the 'movie watching experience' they talk of?

Shrimpy said...

Sterling was previously renovated in the early 90s, and they did a pretty good job of maintaining the art deco-ness at the time.

Right next to the Sterling is (was?) the equally interesting Deutsche Bank House. That was renovated in the mid-late 90s and has some fantastic Indian contemporary art inside, worth wandering in to if you're early for a movie.

Full2 Faltu said...

180 Rs for a movie? Where the hell are they showing? On a golden screen. I would rather watch the movies at home on DVD. The whole family can watch at very very low cost.

Although I haven't seen many movies in theatre in India, the samosa and simba popcorn are memories. The last time i went to see a movie, it was "Hum Tum" and what i got was Subway sandwich. Disgusting!

Here in Amsterdam, we buy a monthly pass for unlimited movies. Will miss that!


Abodh said...

Anil P : Wow, that must have been nostalgic but alas Sterling is not the same anymore.

Strays : We too did the same. The same thoughts as yours on 'multiplexes'

Shrimpy:don't remember the Sterling renovation but I don't think Sterling was Art Deco like the others( Eros/Regal/Metro). Yes, the erstwhile Tata Palace is still there ( DB House) but doubt the bank people will let us wander about.

Punds : You bet , must be a gold screen. Too bad we don't have the unlimited pass thing here. Yet would have avoided the multiplexes.

uma said...

what are multiplex manners? :)

Abodh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abodh said...

Uma : Will e-mail you the article that appeared in the HT .. Am trying to get hold of it.

Uma said...

I don't like multiplexes... the smell of endlessly caramelising popcorn. Outrageous prices for plain old samosas. Disapproving glances at the bottle of water you're carrying from home instead of buying their overpriced water... But I still have to see some movies in the multiplex because they just don't come to the other cinema theatres..:(

Savio said...

Hey Friends,

You are all mistaken,
The new Sterling ROCKZ!
the ticket costs not 180 like sime of u think byt just 100 and 120.

Worth a watch!

Abodh said...

Uma : heh heh. maybe doing all that and you won't get the multiplex looks are multiplex manners.

Savio : Didn't say that Sterling was charging Rs 180. didn't find the Rs 100 tickets the day I went. they said all the tickets were Rs 120.