It’s not just a cinema. In fact it has two cinemas. But what’s so different about this unique building in Kalutara that is more than a cinema?
Well for starters it’s situated right smack in the middle of the Kalutara town on the Main Road (it’s really Galle Road, Kalutara) between the Secretariat and the People’s Bank branch and it’s got history too.
A cinema named New Minerva was started by Don Alton Liyanage in 1967, on 7th July to be exact after he had disposed of the Minerva theatre which he owned previously (the name he had chosen, “Minerva”, is the Roman goddess of wisdom – sponsor of art, trade and strategy – so appropriate in every sense).
Ensuring that his patrons had the best, he had modern equipment and facilities installed according to standards that prevailed then. The first film to be exhibited at the opening night was a Hindi movie, “Ayatufan”.
Let’s take you back a bit further in history. Don Alton Liyanage was a man with real passion for cinemas and was a true pioneer in providing cinematic entertainment in rural areas. Initially exhibiting films in makeshift tents, in the late 1940s, he built his first cinema in 1950 in Matara called “Richmond” in collaboration with SK a name still very well recognized in Matara. This cinema he built is now known as the SK cinema. Later he constructed the Richmond Theatre in Ambalangoda which now operates as Anura Theatre.
Moving to Kalutara, he built the 3rd of his Richmond Theatres which, in 1959 screened its first movie titled “Pathivatha” a film dubbed in Sinhala. The name of the theatre was later changed to “Minerva” which he sold subsequently but is still in operation as Chitra Cinema. It was thereafter that he built the New Minerva in 1967.
Coming back to the present, after his demise the passion he had for cinemas is driving his family, the present owners, to give the old lady a facelift and add to what their pioneering ancestor did.
A still usable but about a 100 year old projector is displayed in the inner lobby and other cinema related antiquities are to be added according to the family. This, when complete, will be a one of a kind display in a private cinema. So little wonder why Dons Plaza is called unique and possessing history.
The New Minerva (the name has been now changed to Minerva 3D), has undergone refurbishment at a considerable cost and the owners have spared no expense to make it the most modern cinema in Sri Lanka (except one other situated in Colombo) and will cater to patrons from not only Kalutara but the surrounding areas as well. The Plaza 2D is the second cinema added to this old premises and is also in operation.
Outside of Colombo, Minerva 3D and Plaza 2D are the only theatres to be fully air conditioned with wall to wall carpeting, having Digital Surround Sound (DTS) and Zenon projection. Kalutara ought to be proud of such a centre for entertainment. Though air conditioned and having all the creature comforts one enjoys in a Colombo theatre, the charges are comparable to that of a non-air conditioned theatre. Surprised? Well don’t be, for the mind set of giving the best deal to patrons comes from the love the present owners have for the industry, inherited from the original owner, Mr. D A Liyanage.
This is not all. With the installation of the first Digital Cinema projection System capable of 3D Cinema experience and 7.1 Sound Systems at the Minerva 3D, it can boast of being only the 2nd theatre in Sri Lanka to provide such world class quality entertainment at their doorstep to the patrons of not only Kalutara but to all movie lovers around Kalutara looking for a quality cinematic experience.
The lobby inside the building is large and airy and this penchant for customer care again comes from giving thought to the patrons’ needs. This allows the patrons to relax while they await the opening of the theatre doors to allow them entry to the dreamy world of stars.
Not comparable to any ordinary theatre, Dons Plaza houses a shopping mall that boasts of a variety of shops situated on either side of the entrance lobby as you enter the building from Galle Road. These cater to an array of needs for the cinema goer as well as passersby and tourists who frequent this town by the “Kalu Ganga”.
A large electronic screen (the only one after Moratuwa on Galle Road at the time it was installed), proudly announces the current movies and the coming ones, not to mention giving advertising value to the trading fraternity, which opportunity many have already made use of for advertising their businesses.
Not neglecting a common need of the present day visitor, parking for vehicles is also made available for the convenience of its patrons.
Don’s Plaza is the place you will think of visiting first if you’re looking for an out of the ordinary cinematic experience in or around Kalutara.