Friday, December 2, 2011

Dinner and a movie

A piece I did for Time Out about PVR's Director's Cut

“Nowadays, people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing,” says Paul Kemp in The Rum Diary, quoting Oscar Wilde. The line wafts over to me as I lie back in my recliner, sip an ice tea and idly wonder whether I should tear my eyes from the screen long enough to glance through the iPad menu by the armrest. This is Director’s Cut, the new ultra-luxurious offering from PVR. It opened last month in Vasant Kunj’s Ambience Mall, and houses four movie theatres – the largest of which has a capacity of 108 – a multi-cuisine restaurant, a café and a bookstore.

Director’s Cut appears targeted at people who believe that things of value should come at a price. But just how valuable is this experience? The recliners are admittedly comfortable. It’s great to have a decent (if not very adventurous) in-theatre menu – though be warned, a pizza here can set you back Rs.500. The main benefit, though, is being able to watch a movie in a hall and in peace, in the company of other “connoisseurs” (as the press release would have it). Who could put a price on that? PVR can; tickets are Rs 750 on weekdays, Rs 850 on weekends. My bill, lunch included, came to Rs 1,778, a decidedly expensive outing for anyone who doesn’t shop regularly at Emporio Mall.

PVR entered the luxury movie-viewing market a couple of years ago with their “Gold Class” halls in the NCR and Bangalore. The plush surroundings in these theatres are roughly the same as what Director’s Cut is now offering. PVR’s Joint Managing Director Sanjeev Bijli acknowledged that Director’s Cut was an extension of the Gold Class concept, albeit with more food and beverage options. “It’s very annoying sometimes to be thrown into the exit corridors after the movie finishes,” he said over the phone. “A lot of people want to sit back, have a glass of wine and discuss the film. That’s why we decided on a restaurant.”

PVR also has plans to reel in the discerning (as opposed to simply wealthy) viewer with screenings of “vintage and classic cinema” in one of the four halls, under the Director’s Rare label. Try medium rare. This week, they screened the Javier Bardem-starrer Buitiful, which released in regular PVR theatres earlier this year (as did Drive, shown the week before). They also screened The Shawshank Redemption, a film whose rarity is compromised by the fact that it’s on TV every other fortnight. Cinephiles are more likely to find something of value in the bookstore, which has an impressive collection of literature on cinema, reasonably priced movie posters and Bollywood-inspired memorabilia.

Director’s Cut wants to be seen as the place for sophisticated cinema lovers. “The interiors…are soaked in classic and contem­porary film-based art, so as to underline the classic quality of the experience,” rhapsodises the press release. This “art”, mainly signed photographs of directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa on the walls, is a smokescreen, an illusion to make the patrons of Director’s Cut feel like they’re discerning viewers. The truth is that Director’s Cut is a luxurious viewing experience, not necessarily a quality cinematic one. What would make this offering more interesting is if PVR could start screening genuinely rare movies, something that cultural centres here do for free. That would certainly add some value to the price.

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