Karnataka HC relieves theaters from moratorium obligation

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court ruled on Wednesday, 3 November that theater owners need not abide by moratorium on release of other language (non-Kannada films) as no order has been passed by the government, after the government advocate informed the HC that that it has neither prohibited theatres from exhibiting non-Kannada films nor imposed any condition in this regard.

This interim ruling was given by the court while hearing a petition filed by owners of two theaters - Cauvery and Vybhav. Notices have been issued to State Government, Karnataka Film Chambers of Commerece (KFCC), respective associations of Karnataka Film Producers (KFPA), Karnataka Film Directors Association (KFDA), theater owners, the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV) and the city police.

The High Court said that the petitioner-exhibitors need not abide by the Clause (4) of the resolution passed by the government-headed panel, to solve issues related to the Kannada film industry. The committee had imposed a seven-week moratorium for releasing non-Kannada films. The Clause (4) says the KFCC would implement the agreement reached with the exhibitors in 1994 for not releasing new non-Kannada films for seven weeks after their release, in their respective states.

The theater owners had approached the HC asking it to quash the order imposing the seven-week moratorium on the release of other language films in the state issued on 3 September. The petitioners contention is that there are not enough releases of Kannada language films in the state and if they were to wait for seven weeks before release of other language films, they would have no audiences to see the films as pirated CD's and DVD's would be available by then. The petitioners have also asked the court to direct the police to give protection to theaters screening non-Kannada films in the state and also to instruct the KRV not to cause any damage to the petitioners' interest.

Theater owners have in the mean time decided to adhere to the new three-week moratorium until the Film Federation of India-CM meeting scheduled to be held on 9 November. No Non-Kannada films are scheduled for release on Friday, November 5, 2004.

In spite of the SC and the HC decisions against the moratorium, the KFPA still hopes that the other language film theater owners will abide by what they term as an out-of-court settlement of a three week moratorium for the benefit of the Kannada film industry.

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