Crown and Regal

Queen Elizabeth II closed her innings on the earth last week and was the only monarch who ruled for 70 years. Several world leaders attended the expensive funeral. All the news channels, TV channels, and historians eloquently presented the Queen’s stories. It was a great chance to revisit British history in the last two weeks. All good!
I want to talk about two crucial landmarks in my town — Crown and Regal. Both are single-screen movie theatres which existed like the British Queen and derived their names from the British monarchy. I learned Regal survived, and this landmark would cross the century mark. I hope someone will remember and celebrate the occasion. Crown has become an apartment complex now.
Crown started as a tent theatre and grew into a full-fledged movie house. Mr Govindappa was the original owner, and it has changed several hands in the last many years. As a boy, I had not seen the tent but was fortunate to see the movies in the theatre. Crown sported four classes — floor, bench, chair and a balcony. A wire mesh separated men and women in the first two classes. The floor class was the cheapest, and there was no seat assignment. During the busy days, one sat next to the other, knees touching. The wife and the husband would sit on either side of the mesh. They could see and talk while the movie was in progress. Regal came into existence because of an entrepreneur Rustomji who had a cotton mill. He frequently travelled to Bombay for business and marvelled at the Regal theatre. He built a replica in our town.
I could sit or sleep anywhere in the floor class. I needed to go early to get a seat in the back. Smoking prohibition was in place, and the theatre administration immediately handed the culprit to the police. I bought groundnuts or pumpkin seeds in a paper cone for ten paise from a vendor outside during the interval. As there were no garbage bins, I had the luxury of throwing the paper wherever I wanted. When there was no good turnout, I stretched myself with support under my head and watched the movie. When the movie dragged on, I occasionally slept off. The cleaning woman had woken me up on a few instances as I had a sound sleep. She needed to clean the floor and prepare it for the next show.
My grandmother would take my friends and me to the movies, and we walked to the theatre on foot. She carried water in a brass vessel and some small eats. We never knew items like popcorn or ice cream those days. Our focus shifted to snacks when the film became tedious. Usually, a war reel followed a commercial slide show before the film. Many walked in only when the movie began. We walked out of the theatre in the interval to attend to the nature calls. Occasionally, there were disruptions because of power breakdowns. The concept of UPS or an inverter did not exist during my younger days. Hell would break loose if the darkness extended beyond a few minutes. The theatre owner would take care of the local power distribution folks to ensure the continuity of power during the screening. Some of my affluent classmates went to the balcony and looked down upon me literally and figuratively. To my discomfort, they would talk loudly about their movie visit with friends the next day.
We saw some Hindi and English movies as the regional films were a few in these theatres. There were no subtitles those days. As we could not understand the dialogue, the theatre would enlist a translator who would do a running commentary with a megaphone as the movie kept rolling.
Watching movies in Crown and Regal was fun, with limited choice. Multiplex theatres with multiple screens do not stand a chance in front of Regal and Crown.


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