ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 52
TV Times  

Theatre owners ring alarm bells

By Susitha R. Fernando

Last week theatre owners rang alarm bells on the authorities in charge of the country's film industry claiming that 87 theatre halls have been closed since 2001.

The Theatre Owners Association gathered the media to explain the grave situation they have been facing over the last few years and demanded that if immediate action was not taken they would be forced to close all the theatres in the country.

National Film Theatre Owners Association at a press conference held to brief the media about the close down of cinema halls. (From Left) Ananda Nimal Weemanna General Manager, MPI, member Movie Exhibitors Association, Hemantha Kandamby, Film Exhibitors Association, Nimal Kularatne, Chairman, National Film Theatre Owners Association, Vipula senarath, Chairman, Movie Exhibitors Association and Mahen Fernando, member of Film Exhibitors Association.

The Chairman of the Theatre Owners Association, P. W. Nimal Kulathunga said that most of the theatres in villages have been closed and a few cinema halls in the main towns are also on the verge of closure.

"Lack of any financial assistance or administrative support from the powers that be compound the problems faced by the theatre owners," said the Chairman of the Association.

The National Film Corporation which divided the circuits should be responsible for the present crisis, Mr. Kularatne charged. According to him the NFC's handing over of film distribution to the private sector was the beginning of the tragedy of Sri Lankan cinema and theatre owners.

"A Development Fund was set up for the benefit of those involved in the cinema industry. We contribute Rs. 3.10 from every ticket we sell but we have not received nothing to repair a cinema hall or bring new equipment," the theatre owners complained.
Some of the films made were failures and others just lie without being completed.

They further complained that tax up to 40% is being paid to the government but the government has failed to look into their problems."Most of us have been theatre owners for last several decades and there are a large number of employees who are dependent on it," the Chairman claimed.

"The majority of the cinema halls are situated in the hearts of the respective cities where they are of high commercial value and they are being converted to supermarkets or other businesses. "If our demands are not met we would also be forced to close our cinema halls and start businesses there," Theatre Owners warned.


NFC Chairman concerned over theatre owners' plight

Responding to the Theatre Owners claims, the National Film Corporation (NFC) Chairman, Ashoka Serasinghe said that he was in agreement with the problems that have been faced by the theatre owners.

‘As a measure we have made arrangements to increase the ticket rates and I am sure that this would happen definitely within a week's time’ Mr. Serasinghe said.

NFC Chairman Ashoka Serasinghe

The government too has become involved by exempting some of the taxes imposed on theatres by the local government authorities. We met the Minister of Local Government, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon to discuss how these taxes could be brought down.

‘I am standing with the Theatre Owners and in fact I have met the President and has brought these to his notice’ Mr. Serasinghe told.

"But there is a delay on the part of the Theatre Owners as they have not made representation to the local government authorities so far," NFC Chairman said.

Mr. Serasinghe also said that the problems of the theatre owners aggravated due to hading over of film distribution to private companies.

"Five years ago the then administration without foresight handed over film distribution rights to the private companies and today except one company all the others are facing problem,".

"I personally believe that the distribution rights have to be under one umbrella, the Film Corporation.

This has been reiterated by Dr. D. B. Nihalsinghe former chairman of the NFC. He however said that an attempt to change this situation would create an adverse situation.

"Any way I am marking my time and making plans give at least 75% of the distribution to the National Film Corporation," he said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.