Holidays and broke teenagers don’t quite fit together, more so during summer. With the scorching heat and sweat dripping down our faces, getting annoyed was pretty easy. Bengaluru certainly made living easier in some ways, but not if you weren’t ready to pay for it. Every time I wanted to catch a movie, I’d pay Rs 150 or 200 at a single-screen theatre because I couldn’t pay up for a multiplex. So was my story with Rex theatre in Brigade Road.
‘Logan’ had just come out, starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for the last time. Despite not having followed or watched any movies of the X-Men series before, I was dragged to Rex.
“Arre bhai, 150 ka show hai. Dekh kar chill marenge,” said my overly enthusiastic friend as he convinced me to get out of bed on a sunny Monday. The show was at around 9 am, and we were there twenty minutes before, though we had already booked our tickets online.
My friend had taken the liberty to call another classmate of his, who was, for some reason, waiting already. With less than 10 minutes left for the show, we decided to go eat something. Walking out of the theatre and up the inclined sidewalk along Brigade Road, we made our way to a supermarket. We stuffed my bag with Kurkure and Mountain Dew, and walked past the Opera House that once was a theatre too. To my surprise, when we got back, nobody checked my bag as was customary in theatres, so now I had cheap food too.
Though Rex had been renovated by then, no change was made to the theatre balcony. The wonderful thing about the balcony was that if you were sitting in the last rows, beneath the balcony, you could well say goodbye to the top of the screen. And that’s where we were. Also, the screen wasn’t end-to-end, so it was like watching an oversized screen with curtains on both sides.
Eventually, the commercials started playing on screen. It took me a few seconds to realise that the only direction any sound came, was from the screen. If the movie hadn’t already started, my friends would have heard it from me.
The crowd then went berserk as an aged ‘Logan’ walked out of his car and was about to pick a fight. My complaints died down mostly. The movie was pretty moving, and I hadn’t paid more than Rs 200 for it.
I would watch a few more movies here, and in other single-screen theatres all around the city, like Urvashi, Maheshwari, Lakshmi and Srinivasa. They all kept me on the budget, and reasonably happy about having watched a movie.
But it wasn’t just that. The wonderful part about these theatres was the crowd. The hooting and whistles gave life to the movie-viewing experience. To a newbie, it would be almost annoying
But everything has an expiry date, they say. It was no different with Rex. With Netflix, and multiplexes popping up everywhere, Rex had run out of business after 80 years. They screened their last show on the last day of 2018. Rex closed down to give way to a multiplex by the same owner.
Many other single-screens, like the Opera House exactly opposite Rex, Maheshwari theatre on Bannerghatta Road, Kappali that was once the biggest theatre in Asia, are all just memories now.
While these may be just some commercial establishments, I feel a deep sense of attachment every time I walk past where Rex and many other single-screen theatres once stood. It could have been someone’s first English movie in Rex, or maybe their first date, when they think back to it. Writing about this makes me feel a weird tingle, reminding me of the impermanence of everything. But that’s what memories are for, sharing and reminiscing about the culture we lose everyday.