Curtain coming down on cinema halls?
Imaginea place where we can escape our humdrum lives for a couple of hours, a place where we can let loose of our emotions, a place that takes us on a roller-coaster ride through thrills and laughter, tears and terrors, a place where we walk in someone else's shoes…
The big screen and joy of watching a film with our dear ones and at least a hundred other not-so-close ones is a delight incomparable! That's why, when the shutter is pulled down on many of these cinema halls, it's a huge disappointment for people thirsty for recreation.
Theatres like Jyoti, Shabistan, Paradise, Taj Mahal, Mollika, Moon, Naaz, Gulistan, Lion, Rup Mahal, Beauty, Nishat, Britannia and Anando have been closed for a while now.
Very few are aware that the first cinema hall of Dhaka, Shabistan opened in 1913/14. The second, Rupmahal, opened 10 years later, in 1924. The first air-conditioned hall was Gulistan, but the hall was demolished later, only to be replaced by a shopping complex.
Pondering deeper, one realises these halls were not only sources of entertainment, but promising sources of revenue. Eid holidays were considered to be a period of good business for hall owners but as the golden age of Bangladeshi movies ended, the popularity of these theatres too waned. The halls that once were buzzing with crowds are now rarely 'housefull'.
The General Secretary of Bangladesh Film Exhibitors Association, Miah Alauddin explained, “The reason behind the closure of halls is the influence of satellite channels. The audience can watch 2-3 movies each day, staying at home now.” There were a total of about 1200 cinema halls in the country, whereas now, 500 of those have already closed down, a saddening 40 percent. Miah Alauddin added, “If the government allows tax-free movies to be screened, the situation might improve.”
DVDs are sold at as low as Tk50, raising much concern among cinema trade analysts. Satellite channels only add to this problem, broadcasting Bangla, Hindi and English films everyday and that too, repeatedly.
While some complain that pirated versions of the movies being sold in front of theatres drive away the audience, others add that the ambiance inside these halls is dismal. Families rarely go to the theatres any more, owing to the vulgar scenes and dances often shown in films.
On the contrary, Momtaz Ala Shakur Ahmed, Managing Director of BFDC said, “We are doing good business. Good movies have been produced here. If movie hall owners want to sell their theatres for profit then it's their concern, but the standard of movies should not be blamed.”
On a positive note however, recent hits such as "Bachelor", "Monpura" and "Third Person Singular Number" have brought in a tide of positive change to the Bangladesh film industry. If storylines improve, standard editing techniques are employed, good cinematography is added and improved seating facilities are provided, these halls might once again become dominant in the industry, drawing the audience away from their TV sets back to the theatres where they once thronged.
By Farizaa Sabreen
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Going back to the movies
The typical movie theatres were once considered prohibited zones for the educated class in Bangladesh. Badly made movies packed with distasteful scenes were the trend. Urban families were seldom seen going to a movie theatre for recreation.
But the scenario is not the same any more. With a wind of change that swept the Bangladeshi movie industry, there came a wave of good and aesthetically engaging movies that altered the negative perception. Above that, the introduction of the multiplex culture with the advent of Star Cineplex attracted a wider range of viewers who were not seen near movie theatres until then.
Many teenagers and university students today like spending their time watching a movie with friends and family at a clean, comfortable movie theatre. Taking someone to a movie on the first date is almost a custom in the western world, which was not quite popular in Bangladesh up until now. But just like all the other western influences, this seems to be catching on too.
Urban families have come out of their shells as well. Parents nowadays like taking their children to movies during the weekends or holidays. Star Cineplex, along with revamped theatres like Bolaka, are screening Hollywood blockbusters as well; added attractions are better sound, higher picture quality and a decent ambiance.
So the next time you ponder on where to go for some fun time out, consider grabbing some popcorn and visiting a movie theatre.
By Afrida Mahbub