Mumbai: Open air, on the rooftop, in the safety of your own car, state-of-the-art technology and some more… This is what is on offer at Mumbai’s Jio Drive-in theatre that is set to open with Akshay Kumar-fronted ”Sooryavanshi” this Diwali weekend.
The drive-in theatre, operated and managed by PVR Ltd, will be launched on November 5 and is billed as a ”relatively safer open space” for audiences waiting to relive the big-screen experience after spending more than a year confined to their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, Darshan Mehta, CEO, Jio World Drive, told PTI.
Situated in Jio World Drive, the recently launched retail precinct spread across 17.5 acres in Mumbai’s commercial hub Bandra Kurla Complex, Jio Drive-in has the capacity for 290 cars.
Ajay Bijli, chairperson and managing director for PVR Ltd, added that people can watch movies anywhere and cinemas have to become ”more and more experiential”.
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”Normally, when you go abroad, you have suburban drive-ins, where there are large patches of land and people just open their bonnets, turn their cars around, and put out their lounge chairs.
”But a drive-in in the centre of the city hasn’t been done before. This is a unique opportunity, we are excited to be part of such a prestigious mall. The city will be taken by storm,” Bijli told PTI, adding that the Jio Drive-in will be just another addition to the city of movies from PVR.
According to Mehta, large urban areas are devoid of open spaces and malls have become urban hangout places, urbanscapes.
“People crave relatively safer open spaces. The movies are there, of course, but the environment of nice weather, open sky and food become a very critical component. It’s all here,” Mehta said.
The project, he disclosed, has been in the works for over a decade. The site was once home to one of the three drive-ins of the country at that time. The other two were in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.
”The one in Bombay closed down in 1977. The Maker family, which was one of the top real estate developers of the city, acquired the plot of land to develop and then over the years, Reliance acquired the property in partnership with the Makers. Gradually, it became a majority company,” Mehta said.
That the opening is with the long awaited “Sooryavanshi” is very fortunate, said Bijli.
“Those guys waited for about 18 months to release their film. All movies meant for the drive-in are coming. In fact, we should do something for ’83’ as well. That will be massive as the cricket season is on,” Bijli said.
With its launch in Sri Lanka, PVR now operates a portfolio of 855 screens across 178 cinemas in 72 cities (India and Sri Lanka).
Mehta said the thought behind the Jio Drive-in theatre was to give something back to Mumbai in a ”more contemporary form” as cinema continues to be one of the most popular forms of entertainment.
”To make land, in the centre of the city, a yielding asset, unique use of it must be made. So, the concept was that we will make the state-of-the-art Jio World mall and on top of it, we will have the drive-in. Somewhere in this planning, the partnership with PVR got struck,” Mehta said.
The fact that the unveiling of this new property is happening as the cinema exhibition sector is trying to get back on its feet, adjusting to the new normal amid the pandemic with precautions outlined by the government is simply coincidental, according to Mehta. ”This wasn’t planned thinking that the world will go through something like Covid. The whole concept of an open air theatre, under the sky on a rooftop is a unique experience.” The Jio Drive-in, which boasts of ”one of the biggest cinema screens in the country” with 24m x 10m as dimensions, will be a whole package that adds to the experience — the right quality of sound and projection system, convenient car parking base, and an ace F&B facility.
A long-awaited dream is coming to fruition with this drive-in cinema hall, said Bijli. ”It’s a destination that’s being built, movies are going to be incidental. Everything is experiential around it. Earlier the corporate offices came, now there is Jio World Drive, there are hotels, service apartments, and the Bay Club coming up. Apple is also opening a store in the area. So it takes time to build something like this.” Jio Drive-In Theatre is powered by Christie RGB Laser Projection. It will bring sound enhancement by broadcasting the soundtrack over FM signal through the car’s sound system.
Recalling his experience of watching 1973’s classic love story ”Bobby” in Ahmedabad’s drive-in cinema hall, Mehta said, ”At that time there used to be those heavy-duty speakers next to the pole. You would put your car next to the pole, unroll the windows, and that’s how the sound came.
“Now, the audio will be on a low transmission frequency. So, you tune in to your car’s FM system and you will be listening to the audio through the speaker system of your car,” he explained.
Only those who are fully vaccinated and have exhausted a period of 14 days from their second shot will be allowed to enter the mall complex.
”Every employee — from the mall and the drive-in — and the patrons will all be fully vaccinated. This will give an added sense of safety to everyone,” he added.