Situated on 2 Humayun Place, on the western side of the Hogg Market alias New Market, the Lighthouse Cinema was established in 1934, for screening exclusively Hollywood films, produced by the famous houses like, Warner Brothers, 20th century fox and Paramount Pictures. Designed by W.M. Dudok and equipped with a wide screen and a huge capacity of accommodating 1396 persons at a time, the magnificent hall was once considered as one of the largest cinema halls in India. Facing the main entrance with glass doors, there were two booking counters in the ground floor, flanked by two entrances to the auditorium. There were also two grand stairways in the two corners, leading to the upstairs, equipped with the separate entrance for the expensive seats, along with a cozy Bar. The walls of the stairs were aesthetically decorated with the framed photographs of the famous Hollywood actors.
For a long period since its day of inauguration, Light House was one of the most popular cinema halls in Calcutta, though subsequently, the capacity of the hall was reduced to 600 and until the independence of India, it was one of the most favourite entertaining centres for the European and the Anglo-Indian community of the city. It suffered the first blow immediately after the independence of the country in 1947, due to the mass exodus of the Europeans. Nevertheless, it survived the shock and served its purpose successfully up to the later part of the 1960s. After that, there was a drastic socio-economic change in the scenario, as most of the Anglo-Indian middle class families left Calcutta for England or Australia.
Meanwhile, the taste of the younger generation also changed, who started to prefer the Hindi films to the English films produced in Hollywood. It adversely affected the booking office, as the number of audience for the Hollywood films dropped drastically. The situation was further aggravated by the prevailing turbulent political condition of Calcutta during 1970s. Under the circumstances, the management of Light House started screening Bombay made Hindi films, along with the English films and after a certain time, they focused only on the Bollywood films for a while. However, the writings on the walls became clear soon, as the hall was incurring heavy losses in the booking counter due to the unfair competition with the new multiplexes with all the modern facilities. To make the situation more tough, the big Hollywood banners like Warner Brothers, 20th century fox and Paramount Pictures, refused to release their pictures in Lighthouse from January 2002, as the hall never gets full, even in the first weekend after the new release of their major films, which is a bad publicity for them.
As it seemed impossible to save the situation, Humayun properties, the management of Light House and the adjacent New Empire Hall, was forced to take the ultimate decision to close the counters of Lighthouse permanently In February 2002. However, in an attempt to partly solve the financial problem, the ground floor of the hall was rented to Citimart, one of the leading Hyper Retail chains in West Bengal.
Strangely, two years after the closure of the hall, the authority seized the theatre’s license in 2004 and a suit was filed against them for unauthorized alteration in the ground floor of the premises, related to the portion of the Citimart. Finally, after the conclusion of the legal battle, the entire cinema hall was rented to the Citimart.
Thus, the glorious Light House Cinema Hall has been lost forever from the city of Calcutta, while the Citimart has taken its place, selling clothes, food and interior decorating items. In fact, every trace of the movie landmark is submerged forever in the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping area. Today, the entrance is flanked by a baggage deposit counter on the left side, which was once used as the booking office, while the other side is packed with food kiosks selling snacks, ice cream or pastries.
Ridiculously, the tall steel tower near the entrance of the hall, which was a unique part of the original building, is still standing there, as it used to be in the past. However, it is stripped of the English letters, which once indicated the name of the hall.