Entertainment to most people in Chennai means a few things – going to the beach, going to a movie, the December Season and shopping for clothes and jewels. The normal public of Chennai is not seen going to a bowling alley or disco.
Most theatres in Chennai are moving into the multiplex mode, some are still individual theatres. Of all the multiplexes, I find only 5 or 6 worth talking about or going to. Sathyam, Mayajaal, Abiraami, Devi, Udhayam and Inox – these theatres cater to the middle class and upper middle class Chennai folk. To me as it is to most Chennaiites, Sathyam is the best means to good cinema.
Firstly, reaching Satyam or Devi is very easy since it is in Mount Road. You have buses to Mount Road from everywhere in the city and you dont have to shift two buses like you have to when trying to reach Inox or Mayajaal. Booking tickets is as easy in Satyam as it can get. First of all, black tickets are very very rare. Their website is a beauty, you can even order the food you want before hand. You can print out the tickets and completely avoid the queue. One more way to avoid the queue is the Fuel Card. The website of Mayajaal doesnt open most of the time and no matter where you try to book tickets in Inox website, it will put you through to Baroda. Who do I book tickets for in Baroda? Irfan Pathan? Its a real ordeal to book tickets on any website other than Sathyam.
If you are booking by phone, you find courteous staff unlike those in Udhayam or Devi. The staff even ask you if you would like corner seats or aisle seats. The door delivery facility is excellent. They deliver very promptly unlike Inox or Mayajaal which deliver only to particular pincodes.
The crowd that comes to Satyam or Inox is very decent compared to Devi or Udhayam. The rates are the main reason. Rates in Devi and Udhayam are chepaer than that of Satyam, but most of often you wouldnt get tickets at the counter. You will have to contend with buying in black. Satyam tickets are less expensive (100) compared to Mayajaal (125) and Inox (120).
Once you reach the theatre, you are guided very well by the staff or sign boards in Satyam or Mayajaal unlike in Inox or Abiraami where you have to find out the theatre on your own and not many sign boards are available. There are continuous announcements in Satyam as to which audience ca go in. I havent seen this in any other theatre. They have ramps for the disabled and special seating arrangements are made for them. In Mayajaal and in Inox they make a fuss and in other theatres they dont care.
For others, all theatres allow hassle free entry if you have the tickets. At Inox, you have pass through metal detector and personal baggage check. Was I going on to a flight? Wasnt I just going to a movie?
Once you are in, the seats of Satyam and Mayajaal are most comfortable. They have big holders for the cups. No matter how big a coke you buy, you can keep it there. In Abiraami, I had to keep the large coke in my hands and couldnt clap for any scene. In Inox also, seats were uncomfortable.
In Satyam, you are allowed to carry your own water. At Inox, you cant even carry the food that you buy from their own store!! In Satyam, the food counter is always open and you can buy at any time, before, during or after a movie. At Mayaajaal, they dont even allow you into the food court unless you are a member and membership is very expensive. At Inox, you dont get food before the movie. You can get it during or after. In Satyam, you can order the food (on net, on fone or in person) before you go for the movie and they will deliver it at your seat right at the start of the interval. For young people this isnt required but for people who are old or disabled, this is a great facility.
One of the worst maintained facilities in all theatres except Satyam is the loo. I dont want to elaborate on this.
The screens in Satyam and Devi are big. Mayajaal screens are comparable. Inox screens are small. There is no satifaction of having seen the movie let alone Live The Movie. All sound, visual effects and A/C facilities that are available elsewhere are available in Satyam. What about movie buffs? They get variety at Satyam that they wouldnt get anywhere else. For the audience that love only old English movies, we have the Pure Cinema that screens the best movies in one of the screens given any day or time. It screens more other language movies that any other theatre.
After you finish the movie, if you need more entertainment, the best place is Abiraami, especially if you are a family. You have an affordable food court, Snow World, Kids World, shopping malls and all in the same campus. At Inox, you have facilities for shopping which is too expensive and even the food court is not affordable for the normal people. At Satyam also, food is expensive but not as expensive as in other places. There is a kids world called Magic Hat. For others, all you need to do is come out of the theatre, cross the road and go in to FreshBakes for affordable snacks. A few yards from Satyam is Spencers where you get everything that you get in Abiraami Mall for a lesser price. You can spend time there as well.
All in all, a Satyam cinema experience is better than the rest of it in Chennai. You have to go there to experience it and believe it. If I were given an option to hang out for a full day, I woud choose to shop at Spencers in the morning, have a lunch there, go for the matinee in Satyam and spend my evening at the beach, have dinner at Eden and go home for a nice night’s sleep.