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.)
Two new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area the weekend beginning April 22, 2011. The Disney live-action superhero flick Zokkomon gets a limited release, opening on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.
The other new Bollywood movie opening this weekend is Dum Maaro Dum, a gangster drama set in Goa starring Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu.
Another new Hindi movie opens this weekend in the Chicago area. Thank You stars Akshay Kumar as a detective trailing three husbands whose wives have caught on to their womanizing ways. Kumar’s character loses his professional objectivity when he falls for one of the wives, played by Sonam Kapoor.
Patiala House gets a third week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30.
These may be the only Hindi movies showing around Chicago for a while, so catch them while you can. The Cricket World Cup is underway, meaning that Indian production houses have dramatically cut back on releases until the tournament ends on April 2. Bollywood Hungama lists just three Hindi films with confirmed release dates in the whole month of March. (Update: 24 hours later, Bollywood Hungama changed their list to just one film with a release date in March. It’s gonna be a slow month.)
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area the weekend beginning January 28, 2011. The romantic comedy stars Ajay Devgan, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya as three guys searching for love.
No One Killed Jessica, which has earned $428,691 in the U.S. so far, gets a fourth week at the Pipers Alley 4. Yamla Pagla Deewana leaves area theaters on Thursday with an impressive $851,381 two-week American haul.