Reliance Industries has taken on lease two floors of the Eros cinema building in south Mumbai, an iconic art deco style theatre, where it plans to open a brand new ‘Swadesh’ store with an area of around 20,000-25,000 square feet with space designated for food and beverages.

Eros theatre owners have leased out the building to Metro Realty, which in turn has leased out the upper storey to PVR-INOX that will operate a 305-seater IMAX theatre, which reopened today after six years. The lower floors have been leased to Reliance Retail, which will be using it for retail purposes, sources said. The theatre was shut in 2017 over non-payment of dues.  

According to sources, the deal with RIL was done only a couple of weeks back. Financial details of the lease were not immediately available.

RIL did not respond to an email request for comment.

The Swadesh store format under Reliance Retail, stocks Indian arts, crafts and ethnic products made by Indian artisans and craft makers. These are premium luxury stores and though lower-priced products are also available they mostly cater to the well-heeled segment. These are large format stores and patrons have the luxury of bespoke service.

The company has tied up with 8000-10,000 artisans who will be making the products while it is also open to collaborating with other Indian and global designers, who can add value.

The company started off the launch of this format with a ‘Swadesh’ experience zone at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Bandra, Mumbai, as part of an event in May last year. It was followed up by a Swadesh standalone store in Hyderabad’s Jubilee Hills, which is home to many Telegu actors, business tycoons and political leaders. Launched in November, sources indicated that the store was seeing good footfall.

The retailer has also finalised a space in New Delhi’s shopping district Connaught Place, where a Swadesh store will be opened soon, sources said.

All stores under this format will be operated by the company and there are plans to launch such stores in the US and other countries too.

With a view to encourage local artisans, the business is setting up skill enhancement centres and has signed agreements with state governments.

New Lease of Life

For Eros, that faced the threat of being pulled down, this is a new lease of life. The building has been a part of Mumbai’s heritage for around nine decades and generations of cinema patrons, including students and office goers, have fond memories of it.

While the basic Art Deco facade with the red Agra sandstone and cream paint has been preserved, inside its all glitz and glaze with polished floors and mirror-like walls. The grand lobby is still grand but more spacious and customers can get their first experience of the ‘Swadesh’ store as soon as they enter. The winding staircase that leads to the upper floors - it used to be carpeted earlier and led to the balconies and boxes - is still there but refurbished. The theatre will have five shows daily with the first show starting at 10 am.

The show will go on.