“Now we have 10 screens, with one screen dedicated to Indian movies,” Gomangalam says, pointing out that they’ve gained the flexibility to use more screens when a movie sells out or they want to book multiple Indian and other foreign-language films to run simultaneously. “Last week we had a Pakistani movie, occasionally we bring in Punjabi movies, and then we have an Ethiopian movie on a monthly basis.”
But creating an international movie haven is a work in progress. Gomangalam and Stian are renovating the theater to replace its well-worn seats and amenities. Their first technological upgrade, converting to digital projection, brought its own set of problems.
Stian laments the ongoing complications: “They’ll send us the hard drive from different parts of India, but we need the key [code] to unlock and play it. If they don’t know the kind of projector we use, the distributor won’t release the key until the day before the show. If they miss that, we have to call somebody in India and get the key. When we opened ‘Miriyam,’ I had to get everyone online to get the keys while there were people waiting in the theater. The movie was to start at 9:45 p.m., and we didn’t get the keys until show time.”
Digital restrictions have increased in the ongoing effort to stem the rise in piracy, which is so rampant that studios race to make their money, rushing movies from theaters to the home in mere weeks. As Gomangalam explains, “Most movies run only one week. Big Bollywood movies can sometimes be kept for three or four weeks. The reason why most movies don’t go past a second week is because you can buy the DVD at any Indian grocery store for cheap.”
He explains how piracy has changed their business: “Ten years ago, when it was a big Indian movie, audiences would buy 50 percent of the tickets ahead of the show. But now there are alternate resources like the Internet or Netflix [which has released Bollywood movies within three or four weeks of theatrical openings], so if they miss this week’s movie, they’re not bothered.”
Still, iMovie Café has found a loyal audience in college students, the local Indian community, and adventurous moviegoers. As local Bollywood fan Shubhneet Sandhu, 24, of Cambridge, explains, “I feel connected to my friends when we watch a movie in a language we understand. I feel in touch with my friends back home and my culture when I can see the movie right away in theaters [at the] same time as India.”
Monica Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.