Images of India’s declining single-screen theaters

There once were tens of thousands of single-screen movie theaters all over India. There are presently only a few hundred surviving due to the gradual decline caused by the development of multiplexes. Hemant Chaturvedi, a filmmaker, has been documenting the final traces of a vanishing custom.

Single-screen theaters in India were impressive buildings with a variety of architectural styles that could hold sizable crowds.

Chaturvedi started his project in 2019, and thus far he has taken photos of 950 theaters in 15 different states.

The number of single-screen theaters has decreased from 24,000 to 9,000 during the past 25 years, he claims. Some have been destroyed to make room for buildings and malls, while others are in ruins because their customers have fled.

“These theaters served as the foundation for India’s cinema-going culture. Even in India’s smallest towns, they enabled people to enjoy movies “says Chaturvedi.

He had the concept for the project when visiting his grandparents in the city of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.

He went back to the Lakshmi Talkies theater, which had been a favorite of his when he was little but was now closed. The goddess after whom the theater was named was represented by a collapsing statue, but she was covered in dust and was missing an arm.

It, according to Chaturvedi, made him realize how much of the city’s history was being lost to urbanization. His mission to photograph India’s single-screen theatres started there.

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