Hyderabad was well-known for the sheer number and good upkeep of cinema theatres for long. Friday releases were a huge thing three decades ago when movies offered the greatest form of entertainment, when television had not yet made its foray into our households and completely zapped all action. From the several that were there in thos days, many landmarks have gone missing - landmarks because those areas were always referred to by the biggest and most well known theatres there. Here is a list of some of the theatres that have entertained many a Hyderabadi with racy Hindi multi-starrers, B grade English movies and even Malayalam movies.
1) Sangeet theatre: This theatre held pride of place, the prima donna among theatres for the quality of crowd it attracted and the quality of movies it showed. Almost all the best English movies played at Sangeet and it offered a great ambience and experience with a clean theatre, good canteen, lots of parking space. I watched many English movies here including 'Gone with the Wind', 'Falling in love', 'Oh God', 'All that Jazz', 'Dirty Dancing' and so many more.
2) Maheshwari and Parameshwari: These relatively newer twin theatres came up in the 80s and soon became the landmark in the Kacheguda area. Glitzy in their decor and architecture, they were best known for the escalator, probably the first in public space in Hyderabad, which was almost a major tourist attraction those days. I saw 'Jaws' here with my school cricket team, and several other Hindi movies.
3) Farheen, Shaheen (later became Surya): These two theatres were also new those days, the late 70s and played new Hindi movies and even English movies. The big landmark of Tilak Road off Abids, they drew big crowds. I remember watching 'Poltergesit' in this theatre.
4) Palace theatre: This theatre was located at the corner near GPO and was quite spacious. It generally played Hindi movies if I remember right. I probably saw only one or two movies but I remember going to a place called Ajanta Cool Drinks near it. This Ajanta Cool Drinks only served cool drinks but had an elaborate set of rules one of which was that you cannot comb your hair in the store!
5) Royal theatre: Somewhere in those parts, of King Kothi, if I am not mistaking it with Palace. It was a well known theatre then but I never went there.
6) Zamrud theatre: One of the oldest and grandest in terms of its location, bang in the middle of Abids, opposite the now older Santosh Sapna, Zamrud was the grand daddy of them all in Hyderabad as far as Hindi movies were concerned,. Huge posters of Hindi films, painted then of course, displayed all over, where you could barely make out who the stars were depending on the quality of the artist. I saw 'Khoon Pasina' here and 'Dharmatma'. Zamrud, sadly vanished without a trace.
7) Navrang, Ashok, Vikranti: The three theates stood side by side on the busy Jamnagar road, almost at the junction of Mojamjahi market and played Hindi blockbusters all the time. They were always crowded. I saw 'Don' for the first time in one of the three theatres.
8) Plaza theatre: This theatre was one of the few that played English movies, but rather second rate movies. It was fading even in teh late 70s with lack of upkeep, but it held a fine place at the corner of the road leading to Nanking. I saw some movie here - I forget which.
9) Lighthouse theatre: This was a relic, a heritage structure if any. every day we passed by Lighthouse on the way to school, as it invitingly put out posters form its cosy location near Lepakshi next to Nizam College. It continuously played soft porn films of Malayalam and some English language. I saw a Malayalam classic called 'Wine and Women' here.
10) Basant talkies: Another landmark in Kacheguda, now a function hall. It played Hindi movies generally and was a good theatre.
11) Dreamland theatre: This was was near Tivoli, probably still is. It looked very European with lots of space and was a nice structure, only very old. I never saw a movie here though we hear that it was a popular joint in the 60s for English movies. It slowly started showing only shady movies later.
12) Shaam theatre: This one lurked at the corner of Lakdi ka pul and played many Hindi blockbusters. It had a fine approach, lot of parking space and a blue facade that I can never forget. I saw some movie here, I forget which.
13) Theatre next to Shaam, was it Dilshad?: This theatre was next to Shaam, not prominent because it was a little in the gully immediately after Lakdi ka pul. It was a slightly seedy joint that showed several Hindi movies, maybe the old ones. Never went there.
14) Manohar theatre: Closest to Secunderabad railway station, it played its own version of B grade movies and Telugu movies. Never went there. I wonder if it is still around. (Apparently it is, sorry Manohar!)
15) Shobhana theatre: This was the first theatre in the Balanagar area and regaled many cinema lovers with its Telugu and Hindi movies. Later on the management built Vimal theatre, a much bigger theatre. Now only Vimal remains while Shobhana has been brought down.
16) Sheeshmahal theatre: A well known landmark in Ameerpet, it stood proudly on te main road. It was a big theatre early on with many good movies playing there. But with the advent of other theatres closeby, the management seemed to lose interest and it gradually closed down. I saw 'Dana Veera Soora Karna' here, a fantastic movie by NTR where he played all three roles of Krishna, Duryodhana and Karna.
17) Skyline and Sterling: The big Landmark in Basheerbagh, plenty of parking, huge space, nice eating joints around. good movies. I saw plenty of movies there ' 'Chicago', 'Titanic', a whole festival of Bond movies was it or something similar, and many forgettable movies too. But I enjoyed the movie going experience in Skyline and Sterling always.
18) Liberty: The theatre was so popular that the bus stop and area at the junction of the road meeting the Basheerbagh-Tank Bund road from Himayat Nagar was called Liberty. A huge affair with some old fashioned architecture on it (can't remember the motif) and lots of English movies which later degenerated into B grade English movies. Was it 'African Safari' that I saw here, or was it 'Silent Movie', I fail to recollect, but I saw these and some other not so good movies.
19) Natraj, Ajanta: If I remember right they were next to one another, at the corner of the Secunderabad GPO traffic signal leading towards Clock Tower. Natraj was a grand affair, with lots of big releases but Ajanta was not if I remember right. I never saw a movie in either theatre but I passed by both several times of course.
20) Kalpana theatre: This one in Kavadiguda has been around for decades. But I am not sure if it is still around. Another one that needs to be checked up on.
These are what I can remember now. More when I get them. However I must doff the proverbial hat to Vijayalakshmi theatre in Ameerpet, a run down establishment if ever there was one, that played B grade movies always and which looked it would wind up even in the late 70s, one way or another. It has survived and still plays movies! Truly a champion.
But I truly had wonderful memories of all these theatres. It was an experience to watch movies then in these single screens complete with the wisecracks, loud comments, first day blues, black marketing, queuing up for hours, trying to get women to buy tickets for us etc. Sangeet had lovely sandwiches but all others had pretty lousy fare. But who cared? A movie was as experience, where everyone dressed out well, took popcorn money, went with families, and in all likelihood ate lunch or a meal outside. A complete experience. Thank you all for making life so wonderful those days, for the entertainment, music, song, dance, drama. Great stuff!