When fans found out Shah Rukh Khan was to grace cinemas again with Siddharth Anand’s Pathaan, it created a furor that few other stars in the country (maybe even the world) could. It has been a mere two days since the highly-anticipated film’s release, but it has taken the nation by storm. And an interesting phenomenon has followed – Pathaan has revived single-screen cinemas across India. 25 such cinemas, which had all shut down, are now up and running once again to screen the film for eager fans.
Bachpan mein saari filmein single screens par hi dekhi hain. Uska apna hi maza hai. Duas, Prathna aur Prayers karta hoon…aap sabko aur mujhe kaamyaabi mile. Congratulations on your re-openings. pic.twitter.com/LuF2TsCjvh
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) January 24, 2023
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many theatres were forced to close their doors and suffered huge losses. Both filmmakers and audiences who could opt for an at-home alternative settled for OTT platforms. For single-screen cinemas, many of which were already on the path of extinction, this came as a huge hit. According to a report by Financial Express, India had between 8,500 – 9,000 single-screen theatres in 2018-19. This number dropped to 6,200 in 2022. The high cost of running a theatre became unsustainable for many during the lockdown. Threatened first by multiplexes and later by the booming OTT industry, there was little hope left for such theatres. Many consider single-screen cinemas to be part of a city’s architectural and cultural heritage. They carry a rich history with them, one we could lose to newer mediums of content consumption.
But as it turns out, the buzz that preceded Pathaan was enough to bring at least a fraction of them back to life. Social media is flooded with videos of fans going berserk in theatres, abandoning their seats to dance to the film’s songs and cheer for Shahrukh Khan’s titular character. Hailed as his ‘comeback’ film, Pathaan has captivated audiences in a way that is inherent to Bollywood.
When Jhoome Jo Pathaan came out , I saw many being sceptical about it when I loved it so much … guess what people are literally banging it out dancing in theatres 🔥🔥
PATHAAN SMASHING RECORDS pic.twitter.com/xbrxdwRfGc
— Aryan (@tumhidekhonaa) January 26, 2023
The film has certainly not had an easy road thus far. It sparked controversy over Deepika Padukone’s saffron monokini in the song “Besharam Rang”. Many claimed the use of the colour, which Hindus believe is sacred, offended religious sentiments. The song itself received backlash for supposedly being vulgar and inappropriate. Protestors took to social media, calling for the film’s boycott. Although some are still opposing the film, it is shattering records at the box office, earning ₹231 crore worldwide in two days. The film has the widest release in history for any Hindi film. Now with its revival of theatres, Pathaan seems hellbent on making history.