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Delhi's iconic Regal Cinema to down shutters with a housefull show of Raj Kapoor's Sangam


The 85-year-old cinema hall, an iconic presence in Delhi, will make way for a multiplex. 

Source: Twitter

Shriram Iyengar

Another titan falls. Delhi's iconic Regal cinema, the focal point of several high-profile film premieres in the city, is downing its shutters. The 85-year old theatre will be screening Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker at 6pm and Sangam as its final show at 9pm on Thursday. 

Since the news of the closing down emerged, the theatre has seen an increasing number of visitors. Reports quoted Regal manager, Roop Ghai, suggesting that 231 of the 658 seats for the last show have already been sold out online. The manager added that the last time the theatre saw such a rush was for Aamir Khan's Dangal (2016) and Salman Khan's Sultan (2016). The theatre is currently screening Anushka Sharma-starrer, Phillauri. 

The theatre was the first to be built in the Connaught Place area in 1932. It was opened by famed architect Sir Sobha Singh, the father of late author Khushwant Singh. One of the first big premieres at the theatre was Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh starrer, Gone With The Wind (1939). Later, the theatre would also host the premieres of classics like Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Sangam (1964). 

Vishal Choudhary, one of the owners of the hall, was quoted by news reports saying, "The facade will not be changed as the building is a heritage structure but inside there will be major changes including a new design of the hall, better seats, new toilets and canteen." 

However, the municipal corporation of Delhi has also raised concerns about the theatre's structural integrity. The decision to rebuild it as a multiplex is seen as a measure to improve the revenues of the theatre, while adding to the safety of audiences. 

The first and second floors of the building have already been sold to the famed Madame Tussaud's for their soon-to-come wax museum. 

The theatre was a favourite haunt for Raj Kapoor during his sojourns to the city. The director would often spend several days hanging around the cinema halls. The hall returned the compliment by agreeing to screen Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), when the film ran into censor trouble and theatres around the country refused to screen the film. 

This was not the only tryst with controversy for the theatre. Regal also became the focal point of Deepa Mehta's candlelight vigil, with 30 LGBTQ activists, protesting the ban on her film, Fire (1998). 

Several old timers of Delhi are feeling a tinge of nostalgic regret at the news. Hearing the news, director Subhash Ghai tweeted,