I am in Kolkata, India still and felt like watching the new Tom Hanks / Steven Spielberg movie – “Bridge of Spies.” It was a great movie, but that’s not the point. This post is all about the theater and the great wealth divide in India between the very small percentage of those with and the even larger percentage of those without.
I went to Quest Mall in south Kolkata, a beacon of modernity opened in 2014 brimming with luxury retailers such as Breitling, Gucci, and Swarovski. At the top floor of the mall lies Quest’s branch of the INOX movie chain. Within the already exclusive INOX theater, rests a superlative movie experience unlike any other I have ever experienced simply called Insignia.
Now you have to realize that just to get into the Quest Mall, you need to pass the visual inspection of several security guards as well as X-Ray screening and wanding for you and your bags. Everyone I saw inside the mall was very well dressed and frankly, I felt really underdressed in my pants and T-Shirt.
I have never been to a movie in India, and before arriving here in Kolkata at the beginning of the month, I knew that a movie in Kolkata was one of the things I wanted to experience. Little did I know what I was in for.
My ticket price for the top of the line experience was 600 rupees, about $9.20. I had no idea I was purchasing Insignia, I just thought, hmm, well, a movie back home in Boulder, Colorado costs $10.65, so I’m getting a good deal. I later found out that a ticket to “normal” Indian movie theaters go for 250 rupees, about $3.80. The regular INOX theater ranges in price from 270-450 rupees depending on the kind of seat you get. Remember, INOX is already much better than the standard Indian theater.
To get into the theater, I had to pass another security checkpoint filled with the requisite wanding, X-Ray screening, and emptying of all pockets. If this is starting to sound like getting on a plane, the similarities didn’t stop there.
My Insignia ticket got me access to not only a super luxurious theater, but also my own pre-movie waiting lounge complete with an exclusive concessions counter. Besides popcorn and all the usuals, the counter stocked bagels, sandwiches, Indian food, coffee and tea. I felt as if I was in a club lounge at the airport waiting for my flight to board.
The Insignia pre-movie lounge with my fellow Insignia guests
We were ushered into a relatively small theater with the most comfortable movie seats I have ever experienced. Think the best Lazy Boy recliner you have ever been in whose footrest is electronically raised and lowered and whose backrest goes almost to horizontal. You not only have cup holders on both armrests, but also a personal table on which to rest food. My seat was assigned – Row B, Seat 13.
Here we are ushered into the Insignia screening room
Here the couple next to me is served hot drinks and snacks during the movie
Some interesting observations… There were no previews, just ads and social commentary like smoking cigarettes are bad for you and love your parents in their old age. Also, half-way through the movie the lights came on and the movie went back to ads. I thought there was a problem, yet nobody panicked. HA! It was intermission, a 15 min break for us to go to the bathroom and get more snacks!
The first thing I saw when walking into the Mens’ room
The second thing I saw in the Men’s room. The urinals covered went around the entire wall and formed a full inner and outer circle
So, the INOX Insignia experience was special, and with the help of a strong US dollar, I got to experience it for cheaper than I would at my local theater back home. One must realize that the majority of Indians will never experience such things. Also, the fact that the movie I saw was in English without subtitles, not Hindi or Bengali, tells you something about those who saw the film. What an amazing country you are India.