As any desi making periodic trips to India knows, the swanky multiplexes in India’s metros put our own Bollywood experience here in the United States to shame. Now comes the news that San Jose’s long-standing IMC 6 Theater has been renovated and rebranded to join the big league. BIG Cinemas, India’s largest cinema chain, a division of Reliance MediaWorks, and a member of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group are taking over the languishing theater property, recognizing perhaps the diaspora-rich viewership in the Bay Area. Bollywood films and their devoted audiences deserve movie theaters that do not smell of stale samosas and unclean bathrooms.

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The Big Cinemas charter extends to 500 screens spread across India, Malaysia and the Netherlands, and the recent takeover of IMC 6 speaks to Reliance’s desire to replicate that strategy by acquiring and operating standalone cinemas in the United States. Naz 8 Cinemas in Fremont is the latest theater to be taken over by the Big Cinemas banner, after the previous owner, Shiraz Jivani, who owed nearly $50,000 in unpaid rent, was unable to negotiate a rent reduction. Says Raman Sanchula, VP Marketing of Reliance MediaWorks, “Big Cinemas presence in the U.S has grown to 182 screens spanning 24 locations, in less than 18 months.” Big Cinemas has since signed a 10-year lease on the IMC 6 property which will play traditional Bollywood Hindi films together with regional South Indian films, while sporting a spanking new interior décor and the latest in audio visual equipment.

IMC 6 now offers all the amenities for which BIG Cinemas are known the world over which include a state of the art Dolby surround system, all-digital 2K projection, digital LCD menu boards and poster cases, which are spruced throughout the Cinema lobby, and new comfortable plush seats with high backs, rocks, and movable armrests. Additional services that Big Cinemas has brought to life to aim for “the highest levels of patron satisfaction” include online advance ticketing, together with will call, ticketing kiosks, and the implementation of a customer rewards program. The 600-seat theater lobby now includes a seating area for patrons, and an upgraded concession stand complete with masala chai and samosa by way of snacks.

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Big Cinemas is perhaps most well known for pioneering the IMAX experience in India and developing flagship properties such as Metro Big Cinemas in Mumbai. Separately, Big Cinemas has won several awards in the retail space, globally. It was awarded “Retailer of the Year” in Entertainment, for the second year running, at the India Retail Summit and it also received the “Most Admired Retailer in Entertainment” award at the Images Retail Awards in 2007. Outside of India Big Cinemas received the “International Exhibitor of the Year” awards at CineAsia 2008. In speaking with management, they project upwards of 35 million people to watch a movie on a BIG Cinemas screen globally, in 2010. The Unites States is a cornerstone of this growing market.

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