The big news from Amazon today — and no, it’s not the addition of the Hindi-dubbed version of the 2014 Tamil film Sooran to Prime — is that the online retailer is in the running to buy the Landmark theater chain. It’s an interesting proposition, and not unexpected, since Netflix has also explored buying physical theaters as a way to showcase their original productions.
I’m not sure that the purchase would have any effect on Amazon’s Indian content, since they’re currently only producing original series and comedy specials, not one-off movies. Landmark has theaters in just fifty locations, so even if Amazon wanted to make joint deals for both streaming and distribution, the chain could only accommodate smaller releases like Pari, Missing, or Blackmail. Then again, this could open up new venues for movies that would otherwise bypass American theaters and head straight to streaming, such as Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Hate Story 4, or Vodka Diaries. Even then, Landmark’s theaters are in fixed locations that may not be near the population that regularly watches Indian films, which means reaching out to a brand new demographic — something I’d like to see happen, but that may not make much business sense.
Bollywood movies are becoming harder to find in Chicago area theaters. The AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 — the only theater in the city of Chicago to periodically show Hindi movies — closes its doors for good tonight.
Further out in the suburbs, the Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville shuttered a dozen of its screens, rechristening itself the Regal Cantera Stadium 17 & RPX. The closure of 40% of its available screens doesn’t bode well for any foreign or independent movies at the Cantera.
Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove has historically programmed movies in Indian languages other than Hindi. But that theater hasn’t held a screening since April 24.
This leaves only two theaters in the Chicago area that regularly devote screen space to Indian cinema: Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. Neither is carrying any Hindi movies this weekend.
Part of the paucity of Bollywood movies in theaters in recent weeks is attributable to the Indian Premier League Cricket season, which began in April and ends this Saturday. The few Hindi movies that have released in May have been smaller films lacking star power. Most have exited theaters after only one week.
The release of Ready on June 3 should give an indication of whether Bollywood has a future in Chicago beyond the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. Staff at the Cantera told me that the theater may still carry Bollywood movies, based on availability. Regal’s corporate website lists the Cantera of one of its thirteen theaters that show Hindi movies (though it still lists the theater as the Cantera 30). If Ready — a comedy featuring superstar Salman Khan — doesn’t make the cut at Cantera, I don’t know what will.
So, what are your options if theaters near you have stopped carrying Bollywood movies? Here are some ways to get your fix without resorting to Internet piracy:
Public libraries. Many public libraries throughout the Chicago region carry Indian DVDs in their movie sections. Minimal check-out fees ($1 for a week at the Naperville Public Library, for example) help the libraries expand their collections.
Netflix. The subscription service has a decent selection of Bollywood movies available via DVD and streaming, including two movies that came out in theaters earlier this year: No One Killed Jessica and 7 Khoon Maaf.
YouTube. The video service recently expanded its selection of Indian movies available for free or for rent (typically $3.99 or less). Turning 30, which came out in January, is available for free.
Amazon. In addition to selling DVDs, Amazon Instant Video offers a number of Bollywood movies for rent or purchase. However, the selection of Hindi movies is limited, and the site is hard to search.
Eros Entertainment. If you’d rather own the DVD, Eros is my go-to site. Their selection is limited, but their service is good and prices are reasonable. The DVD for Game, which released in theaters on April 1, sells for $16.99 at Amazon, but just $8.99 at Eros. (Access Bollywood reader Ron also recommends Nehaflix.)