CHENNAI: A landmark of north Chennai, located in the heart of Tondiarpet, is finally downing shutters after entertaining residents for 53 years.
On September 1, Agasthya Theatre’s owners announced that it was going to shut due to poor revenues and other reasons. The theatre's USP was that it boasted 1004 seats, which is very rare to find anywhere in the city now.
Opened on March 9, 1967, the theatre has screened thousands of movies -- from late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MG Ramachandran’s Ulagamsutrum Valiban to the latest movies of Vijay and Ajith.
"The movie Bama Vijayam of director K Balachander was the first film screened here. It ran for more than hundred days," recalls Venkataraman, who has been the manager of the theatre for several decades. He said all the movies of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were a hit in the theatre and so were Rajini and Kamal movies.
A walk inside the tall light-green coloured building reveals close to a hundred accolades and trophies. “300 days success of Ulagam Sutrum Valiban” reads a trophy while “150 days of Pokkiri” reads another.
The theatre eventually became very popular because it was a landmark in the area and the bus stop there was named after it.
The theatre has received many awards from various cinema associations for successful screenings. "This was the theatre that north Chennai residents preferred right from those days. It has 1004 seats and a 70-mm screen with Dolby audio," says Venkataraman.
Some of the popular movies screened here were Neethipathi, Sangamam, Pokkiri, Dheena and Citizen, recalls Venkataraman.
While the theatre was very popular, it was only till 2010, as revenue started dipping due to various reasons. “We did not renovate the theatre into an air-conditioned hall. We did not get access to many major movies after that," says Venkataraman. The theatre still boasts of giant fans to keep the hall ventilated.
Secondly, the traffic diversions due to metro rail construction on the Thiruvottiyur High Road gave a big blow to the theatre, adds the manager. "The road became one-way following the underground track constructions, making it inconvenient for many to come. Crowds drastically reduced," he adds.
Nevertheless, he believes the theatre will go down in history for its screening of successful movies and spacious halls. “Not many theatres had a balcony and box in those days. The gangways too are broad here. You can’t find this anywhere else," he points out.
He says that when the theatre opened, the ticket price was one rupee and ten paise, and it had 30 workers. “Many poor people from across north Chennai were able to afford it,’’ he said.