Regal cinema is one of the oldest single-screen theatres existing from before the time of Independence. But the fact cannot be undermined that it is still one of the iconic hangout places for city dwellers.
Amidst the chaos of the Colaba causeway in South Bombay, always filled with shopaholics, students from the nearby college, and other city dwellers, lies an old yet charming single-screen movie theatre, Regal Cinema. You must have noticed the yellow-pale structure at the meeting point of four roads just before the causeway and behind the beautiful Taj Hotel, but have you ever wondered how old it is? It's more than 90 years old now!
But even the rumours about this old theatre being on the verge to be closed, has not stood on its claims and the theatre is still running. Though the pandemic has resulted in a halt in its operations, the moviegoers might not have forgotten its magnificent interior which is equipped with several giant mirrors. Yes, taking a picture there becomes obvious after watching a movie!
First-ever AC theatre
This theatre, built in the early 1930s, belonged to the British Army. It was leased to Framji H Sidhwa and his friend K A Kooka, who owned Globe Theatres in Calcutta (now Kolkata). While you will have a hard time searching about the beginning of the theatre's construction, it was ready for the inauguration on October 14, 1933.
Governor Sir Frederick Sykus had come to the venue to inaugurate the theatre with the Laurel and Hardy feature, 'The Devil's Brother'. And, to give it a distinctive look, two grotesque bas-relief heads were sculpted on either side of the name of the theatre, Regal Cinema. During that time, Bombay was not familiar with Neon lighting. So, all thanks to this theatre, it is part of movie watching experience!
What not many people know is Regal was also the first-ever cinema theatre to have an air conditioner. The theatre soon got popularity among the locals for it being the first cinema to have underground parking. Apart from this, the main auditorium of the theatre had a motif of sunrays. Being the first art deco theatre of South Bombay, Regal gradually became commonplace for the people of different walks of life to meet.
Not only this, Framji Sidhwa, during that time, had left no chance to appeal to the cinema lovers and had introduced Cinemascope for them. The then balcony audience inside the theatre also had the privilege to enjoy the soda fountain, ice cream in wine glasses, and a pantry.
Titanic ran for 30 weeks
As the years passed by, Regal became one of the best hanging-out spots for movie lovers and hosted many events and movies. Out of many were 'The Sound of Music' that ran for 38 weeks and the iconic movie Titanic that ran for a total of 30 weeks!
The place had also witnessed a special show arranged to screen a documentary for the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It has also served popular names like Dalai Lama, Nikita Khrushchev, Yehudi Menuhin, and many more. You will be surprised to know that the popular Filmfare awards, which are now hosted on foreign lands, were once hosted here! Yes, the award ceremony was held here for four years in the 1950s.
Even now, the patrons find their comfort in the balcony seats on this single screen. The hall inside the theatre still brightens up, and you find yourself within the four walls of the perfect epitome of an auditorium made during the English rule. A secret here is that you get the tickets for the movies here in the range of Rs 100-120 regular days and between Rs 100- 150 on weekends!
So, the next time you plan to go for a movie with your gang, (after Coronavirus times), you must think about visiting Regal Cinema. It might not give you the comfort of multiplexes, but the pleasure of being part of such an iconic aura might just overlap the comfort and take you for a whole other experience!
How to reach:
You can take a taxi from the Churchgate station to the Regal or even take a bus en route to Colaba Causeway and Ballard Estate.
Where: Colaba Causeway, opposite Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai
Timings: 9 a.m.to 11 p.m.