Cinema theatres do a quick vanishing act

Cinema theatres do a quick vanishing act

Many spacious theatres that once dotted the streets of Bangalore and other cities, have now been converted into marriage halls, auditoriums or hotels. According to available figures, the cinema halls that numbered around 1,200 in the beginning of this decade in the State, have dwindled to hardly 650. In fact, over a 1,000 theatres and “tents” that showed films have shut shop in the last 15 years from a peak of 1,850 in 1995.

Bangalore and its theatre-street, the Kempegowda Road, which once boasted of the largest number of movie halls per sq ft area, have seen a rapid decline both in number and quality of theatres. Exhibitors have felt that renting out their halls for marriages and political events is more profitable than screening movies to empty halls.

The main reason for the rapid closure of cinema halls is the decreasing audience. The average occupancy, as per the Film Chamber stands at 12 per cent. Only a handful of Kannada movies out of around 100 released in a year, make it to the second week after the release.

Naga, Shree and Lakshmi cinema halls are among those closed in the last five years in Bangalore. Venkatesh, owner of Naga theatre located near Ulsoor lake, said he closed down the hall because of dip in occupancy rate. Now a hotel is coming up at the same place.

Video piracy

Rampant audio and video piracy in recent times have also hit the movies as it was common to see the pirated CD versions of the movies sold in front theatres where they were screened.

Instead of spending Rs 30 to 40 per ticket, movie goers opted for buying a pirated CD for Rs 20 to 30, pointed out Jayamala, Film Chamber chairperson. The industry puts the loss due to piracy at Rs 300 crore a year.  The mall culture in Bangalore is growing, and about half-a-dozen malls have cineplexes. But the total may not exceed 25 halls, and hence they have not replaced old cinema halls.

In the recently held legislature session,  legislation was introduced to bring piracy under the Goonda Act. Now, the chamber is demanding a separate court to handle piracy cases. Many pirates go scot-free because copy right owners find it tough to attend court cases.
In the yesteryears, the producers were sure of getting around Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1 crore from the sale of audio rights. In the last four-five years, there is no such guarantee of returns. But the new law will check the piracy, Velu of Lahari Recording Company said.

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