Having already travelled with Hole & Corner once, we spoke with Sam Walton, the editor, about documenting disused movie theatres and the idea having intrigued him, he soon contacted Anthony Cotsifas, who was equally enthusiastic about exploring this concept. After a few exchanges, we realised that the idea of looking at disused movie theatres in the current day resonated strong with all of us, and soon a journey to southern India was planned.
A people with deep roots in entertainment, movie theatres symbolised the coming of an age of greater accessibility to modern forms of entertainment. These spaces were thus created keeping in mind the sensibilities and bonds the people have for movies, with great stress on the modern aspect.
Our journey began in the millenary city of Madurai, where we were greeted by our local guide Shiva. After a long day of travelling, we decided to enthral ourselves at the temple ceremony in the evening, great anticipation for the following days birthing butterflies in our stomachs. We visited several old theatres, some still in use, each with distinctive facades, both on the exterior and the interior. The grand Midlaand Theatre, unassuming beige from the outside, a vivid purple on the inside, lay defunct, in its heyday seating 1200.
While driving around the city we came across an interesting façade, but the theatre wasn’t on the list we had compiled. Joseph, our Madurai maestro, performed his magic, found out who the owner was and within a couple of hours, we were inside the theatre. It was completely devoid of chairs, and we discovered that it was once the largest theatre in Madurai, seating 1700. Kotakkai, another one of the old ones in Madurai, was built completely out of bamboo, and it even had the remnants of the screen used, which had unfortunately been removed just days before we visited it. Photographing these storied halls, Anthony kept it as natural as the conditions would allow him, barely using artificial lighting, instead using all hands-on deck to manipulate the light streaming in through decrepit doors and windows.