With the advent of silent cinema in India, there was a desperate need for cinema halls. Filmmakers showed cinema in open ground erecting a tent. The biggest drawback of tent cinema was that it could portray just one show at night! Hence the profit was limited. Besides, during monsoon, the film had to be abruptly stopped until the rain stopped. It was a tiresome experience showing films across India.
The man who introduced First Cinema House in India was Jamshedji Framji Madan, popularly known as J. F. Madan. In 1907 J. F. Madan constructed India’s First cinema hall Elphinstone Picture Palace in Calcutta. This was his first cinema hall and later he made a chain of the cinema halls across India. He ruled the silent era as one of the pioneers of film production in India, an early exhibitor, distributor, and producer of films and plays.
J. F. Madan was born in Mumbai in 1856 in a Parsi family. He had to leave school due to financial crises in his family. As a young boy, he joined Elphinstone Dramatic Club in 1868 as curtain raiser. He was just 12 years old. He worked at Elphinstone Dramatic Club till 1882. During this time he was promoted as an actor and learned the nuances of theatre.
In 1883 he decided to shit to business and earned a lot of money so much so that he bought Corinthian Hall in Kolkatta where plays and drama were held. J. F. Madan renovated Corinthian Hall and converted it into a Parsi theatre shows. The highlight of this Parsi theatre shows was that it had women actors performing, which was a rarity in those days. People were attracted to the theatre and Madan made huge money.
In 1907, Madan took a big step. From the money he accumulated he established India’s first cinema hall called Elphinstone Picture Palace located at 5/1 Chowringhee Place in the heart of Kolkata. The theatre brought a windfall of money. He became a millionaire. He made a chain of theatres across India. Among the chain of Theatres included Palace of Varieties (now known as Elite Cinema), The Electric Theatre (now known as Regal Cinema), Grand Opera House (now known as Globe Cinema) and Crown Cinema (now known as Uttara Cinema). J. F. Madan also made a theatre on his name called Madan Theatre.
Tragically Elphinstone Picture Palace has been demolished by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation due to poor business and fewer people attending single screen cinema houses!!
J. F. Madan died on 28 June 1923. After his death, J. J. Madan, third son of J. F. Madan, became managing director of Madan Theatres and took Madan Theatres too dizzy heights. He expanded the chain of theatres to 127 theatres and controlled half of the country’s box office.