It was the last single-screen theatre on M.G. Road and among the last few in the city
A day before its 57th anniversary, one of the city’s oldest single-screen cinema halls and the last on M.G.Road — Sri Durga Mahal — brought its curtains down for good.
On November 1, 1964, the cinema hall screened its first film Venkateswara Mahatyam starring N.T. Rama Rao.
The hall, which was then an experimental venture with an investment of ₹2.2 lakh by Ramineni Raghavaiah, his brother Ramineni Satyanarayana and other family members in the Patamata village that then had only around 1,500 voters, is now about to be transformed into another modern-day structure housing a shopping complex or a similar facility after being sold to a retail chain.
“It was seen as an experimental venture because of its location at a far off place adjacent to the narrow Bandar Road passing Patamata village six decades ago. After two years of construction and inauguration in 1964, it became a huge success as people made beelines from places like Patamata Lanka, Pulipaka, Gunadala and even farther places to enjoy the movies,” says Ramineni Vijaya Raghava Chowdary, the grandson of Raghavaiah and one of the managing partners of the facility.
“It was hard to let the theatre become history after decades of association with it. The younger generations are not inclined to take up the operations of this theatre any more as most of them are settled abroad. That was the major reason behind the decision to sell off the property,” Mr. Vijaya Raghava says. Lack of financial viability following the COVID-19 pandemic was also a reason but there were ways to overcome it, he adds.
“In the initial days, the highest ticket price of the theatre with a seating capacity of 700 was ₹2.3 for the ‘reserved’ seating section. Now, it was ₹60 for the same section. A while earlier, the ticket price was only ₹50 and we increased it to ₹60 after moving the court citing financial issues. Now, as per the latest government norms, the highest ticket price was also ₹60 in our area,” he says.
Over the decades, the theatre underwent certain changes including upgradation of the sound system, silver screen, and seats but the basic structure remained the same, he says. This made Durga Mahal the only theatre in the city with no ‘balcony’ seating.
“Ours is the last theatre on M.G. Road in the city limits and only a few single-screen theatres are now running in One-Town and Gandhi Nagar,” Mr. Vijaya Raghava said.
The theatre was shut for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was reopened recently. On Saturday evening, the management screened Maya Bazaar as the last show. The structure would be dismantled and handed over to the new owner soon.
All the other theatres on M.G. Road between Police Control Room junction and Autonagar were renovated into shopping complexes and function halls in the past few years.