Apsara Theatre. Photo: Rehna K C

It's 'The End' for Apsara, Kozhikode's biggest single-screen theatre

  • The family-owned theatre was inaugurated by superstars Prem Nazir and Sharada in 1971
  • With 1,013 seats, 210 on balcony, it was one of the biggest cinemas in Kerala
  • Since 2010, 105 single-screen theatres have shut shop in Kozhikode but Apsara is the first releasing centre to wind up.
  • Industry watchers blame disagreement in family, rather than business loss, for the closure

Kozhikode: It's curtains for another single-screen cinema in Kozhikode. The 52-year-old Apsara Theatre on Link Road near Calicut Railway Station screened its last show on Sunday, May 28. The movie was Achyuth Vinayak's Trishanku, starring Anna Ben and Arjun Ashokan.

In 1971, superstars Prem Nazir and Sharada cut the ribbon and inaugurated Apsara Theatre, owned by Thommen Joseph Purakkal. With 1013 seats -- 210 in the balcony -- the 70mm theatre was then billed as the biggest air-conditioned cinema in Kerala. The family-owned theatre was still one of the biggest cinemas in Kerala till its closure on Sunday.

A houseful could have raked in around Rs 1.25 lakh per show. But revenue had plummeted and irreconcilable differences between the families of the two brothers led to its closure, said an industry watcher.

A Kozhikode-based film producer and theatre owner close to the two families also hinted the same. "There may be some other issues apart from the business loss. But it's hard to believe the iconic theatre complex has been shut forever," he said.

Yet, it is hardly surprising. Single-screen theatres started disappearing in 2010. According to a study published by Global Media Studies, Kozhikode had 124 single-screen theatres during the 1990s and up till 2010. The number fell by 85% to 19 in 2019, said the study titled 'Cinema Talkies of Kozhikode district: An exploration into the rural single-screen cinema theatres'.

Apsara Theatre. Photo: Rehna K C

The last theatre to close was Sangam Theatre at Perambra in April 2019.

Single-screen theatres have huge seating capacity but with changing behaviour in cinema consumption, they find it difficult to run a houseful.

Between 2010 and 2019, when 105 single-screen theatres closed, 16 multi-screen theatres or multiplexes came up in Kozhikode district. Today, the district has 18 multiplexes and 18 single-screen cinemas.

But all the theatres that shut down were shifting theatres, where movies are screened after the release in main centres, said the study authored by Sreesanth K of the Department of Business Management in Himachal Pradesh's University of Horticulture and Forestry.

Kozhikode had nine 'releasing' single-screen theatres and they all survived the onslaught of the multiplexes till Sunday (May 28). Apsara is the first single-screen releasing theatre to close down in Kozhikode. "I remember watching 'Gandhi' with my parents in Apsara when it was released in 1982," said a 50-year-old movie buff in the city.

The businesses that sprung around Apsara are also feeling the heat. "My business solely depended on people coming to watch movies at Apsara," said N V Nazeer, who runs the 'Family Hot and Cool' cafeteria next to the theatre complex.

Autorickshaw drivers, cafeterias, restaurants, and even small textile shops will be hit by the closure, said Nazeer. "If Apsara played a super hit movie, all of us would do good business," he said.

Recently the theatre screened the box-office hit '2018'. "Because of the demand, the theatre had a special midnight show," he said. Now Apsara may be reborn as a shopping complex, he said.

Onmanorama failed to get a response from the theatre owners on the closure.

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