Striking Photos of India’s Old Movie Theaters

India is the largest producer of films in the world, but its economic growth has forced some of the country’s smaller, single-screen theaters into decline. Katherine Newbegin, who we first learned about on Beautiful/Decay, started photographing these lost movie palaces in 2010, documenting a once thriving social chapter in Indian cinema’s history. “The fulcrum of the project lies in the exploration of the architecture, which is informed by the human relationships that took place in these spaces, but now only remain in the evidence left behind,” she told ArtStar. “The cinema architecture holds a stifling sense of deadness, as if it were a museum. The lingering chairs, ancient posters, and well-worn furniture act as a conduit into a displaced time.” This process of discovery is crucial to Newbegin’s work. She travels alone to each location, usually discovered by word of mouth, without any knowledge of the theater’s history. For instance, she didn’t learn that the Samrat Cinema I in Jaipur was a porn theater until after photographing the space. See the crumbling beauty of India’s cinemas through Newbegin’s eyes in our gallery.

Photo credit: Katherine Newbegin
Photo credit: Katherine Newbegin

Prabhat CInema, Kolkata, India