Howlers paradise!

That was one helluva experience! A rare blend of conventional movie hall with a feel of a multiplex! A renovated movie hall, Asoka, re-opened recently at Kodungallur. This was once a 1000+ seater conventional movie hall, with a very huge balcony. The hall was then called Essen - and was owned by a very famous family in Kodungallur. Essen was later sold to another party, who renamed it as Asoka. The theatre was renovated when it got the name Asoka. The hall, according to anecdotes, came up some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The theatre is located right next to National Highway-17.

Asoka closed down close to a year ago, for renovation. The hall opened again on March 24, 2011. This time the hall was totally re-done and airconditioned. The seating capacity came down to about 610 now, just around half of what it used to be in the past years. The hall has been tastefully re-done. Asoka is now the ONLY Air-conditioned movie hall in Kodungallur. Kodungallur has three movie halls - Ashoka (AC), Sree Kaleeswari and Silpi. The last two halls are not airconditioned, but feature DTS audio system. Sree Kaleeswari is a very old hall - but is very uncomfortable, hot and congested. Silpi is a totally run down hall.

The reopening of Asoka heralds a new era for movie goers in Kodungallur. Before this, Kodungallur had one airconditioned hall - Mogul. Mogul is now dead and gone - the hall closed down some time in 2008, and has since been demolished completely. There are reports that a two-screened Multiplex would come up at the place. Asoka is the only place for people wishing for a decent movie experience in Kodungallur.

Me and my family had long been waiting for the hall to re-open. The opening came up as a big surprise - and inaugural movie was August 15 starring Mammootty. Sparing no time, I booked tickets for a Saturday Second Show (Night show, starting at 9pm). We started off from home around 8.40pm, and were in the hall by 8.50pm. Getting into the parking was a scary experience - two wheelers were parked on both sides of the entrance, and it was a tight rope-walk to get my car into the parking lot. Parking is certainly ill-planned. Left the car at the parking lot, and we walked into the hall.

The entrance was well-lit - and the roof was really well done. The entrance was impressive - the area was cool. We were welcomed by the guys at the entrance, and were escorted to our seats. At each point in the hall, there were uniformed chaps to help us reach our seat.The seats were old-fashioned with wooden hand rests. The recliners work very well, and cushioning was excellent. But I felt that the area around the head rests were a bit hard - nevertheless, the seating is excellent. The steps were well-lit. The entire hall is well-lit. The movie started off very late - a delay of about 15 minutes. Patrons did object to the delay with - Kooooooooosssss! Patrons were howling at the top of their pitch.

The movie started off in fashion - the curtains were lifted with loud background music. The projection quality was good - but I felt the music system needs a bit of re-caliberation. The airconditioning was a bit too heavy. The hall wasn't full - the entire last row was empty. A lot of youngsters occupied the last row - and they were howling out loud at the top of their pitch. Very loud commentary, often laced with vulgar comments, followed. The movie watching experience was marred by these loud comments and frequent howls. The movie hall is too good, and would certainly love to watch another movie there.

Some points that I missed: The ticketing system is computerised. I was the first customer to purchase a ticket two days in advance - the guy at the counter had a tough time negotiating through their system to issue my tickets. They charge a reservation fee of Rs. 5. The ticket rate is Rs. 65 (Gold Circle). There are 540 seats in Gold Class, and some 70 seats in another class (that one costs only Rs. 35). The big movie hall has only one snack counter - imagine 540 people fighting with hardly a few guys at the counter!!! They badly need to open another snack counter, or may be bring in À la carte service for patrons, like the multiplexes.

Apologies for the absolute lack of pictures - would try to get some pics some time soon.

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