Moratorium on non-Kannada films: 21 theatres announce closure

BANGALORE: Protesting a government committee's decision to delay the entry of non-Kannada films in Karnataka for seven weeks after release, a section of the state's film theatre owners have stopped screening films from today.

A total of 21 theatres have announced their decision to stop functioning.

The theatres which have shuttered their ticket windows as per the Karnataka Cinema Theater Owners Association (KCTOA), include: Innovative Multiplex, Symphony, Rex, Abhinay, Kailash, Tribhuvan, Menaka, Cauvery, Urvashi, Natraj, Sampige, Naga, Lavanaya, Sri Balaji, Vaibhav, Pradeep, Parimala, Pushpanjali, Radhakrishna, Movieland and Sangeet.

As reported by early last week, under pressure from Karnataka Film Producers Association (KFPA) and Karnataka Film Directors Association (KFDA), a government sponsored panel headed by the chief secretary K P Pandey had recommended that non-Kannada Films be screened in Karnataka only after seven weeks from the release date in their own states and that only six prints of each film be permitted for the state.

Non-Kannada film theater owners and exhibitors are also unhappy about the fact that they didn't have adequate and proper representation on the Pandey committee.

Of the 21 theaters that have decided to close down, 12 were major contributors to the Rs 330 million collected by the state by way of entertainment tax last year. It is this very entertainment tax that is doled out by the government largesse as subsidy for the original Kannada film every year. Entertainment tax is not levied on Kannada films in Karnataka.

For the past three weeks since the beginning of the agitation, collections of theaters have dropped by more than 90 per cent. Some theaters have been forced to resort to rerun old sleaze movies to garner a paying audience, but, have been unsuccessful in improving box-office collections.

Media reports allege that some Kannada producers have been demanding double or more charges in advance for screening their films, hitting the viability of the theaters further. The Kannada Film Industry churns out award winners no doubt, but most of its wares are lackluster and low box-office draws.

Meanwhile, a Bollywood delegation comprising of Samajawdi Party leader Amar Sngh, Jaya Bachchan, Yash Chopra, L. Suresh and Boney Kapoor had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy at New Delhi on Friday and expressed concern about the happenings in the state pertaining to the film industry.

The Bollywood film fraternity is worried that these protectionist measures of the Karnataka government could affect the export and release of their films in the other countries, and could also adversely affect export of other goods and services from India. According to reports, a delegation from the center is expected to arrive in Bangalore and discuss the issues with the government shortly.

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