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Preview theatres taking advantage of subsidy

Priyadharshini Preview Theatre, situated in the Badami House, a huge building opposite to the Bangalore Corporation, was once the most sought-after preview theatre for screening premier shows and special shows for VIP"s. Such was the busy schedule of this prestigious preview theatre that the Kannada film producers had to wait for a long time to get a date for their premiere shows.

Upto the mid- nineties, the charges were also reasonable (Rs. 260 per preview show) and the film industry personalities found it convenient to go to the theatre and watch special shows. But this prestigious theatre has now lost out in the race to big, privately owned preview theatres by the likes of G.M. Rejoyz and Arjun Arts, and upkeep by the actor- politician Kumar Bangarappa. They not only possess state- of- the- art equipment, but also have a perfect ambience and comfortable settings, thus offering better services.

The preview charges in the Priyadharshini Theatre have also increased to Rs. 2668 from 1-4-2007. The existing rate is Rs. 2,320. The cost has been hiked for the Kannada film producers who send their films for the state awards and the subsidy. The existing charges for subsidy and for state award is Rs.5 ,770/- But from next April, it will be Rs. 6, 636. The reasons for the annual hike in the preview show rates can be attributed to the following developments. From 1-4-1996 onwards, the state government has revised the subsidy amount to Rs.10 lacs for all the films selected by a special jury committee.

In the year 1998-99 when late B.V. Karanth was heading the jury, the preview charges were Rs. 400 and the jury committee members were paid the sitting fees of Rs. 200. There were murmurs of protest from some jury members who had complained that the sitting fee amount paid to them is not sufficient and it should be hiked. Then the Department of Information wrote a letter to the government highlighting the request of some of the jury members, and even advised the government to increase the sitting fee to Rs. 500 per day. The government officials, after going through this note, then made some changes in the cost of preview shows. Immediately, the department increased the preview theater price to Rs. 1,000/- and for applying for awards, the amount was fixed at Rs. 2,500/-. The sitting fee for viewing the films was raised to Rs. 500. But when the orders came, there was another rider; the government had also advised that a hike of fifteen percent has to be effected every year thereafter!

From then on, every year there is a 15% hike in the cost for preview shows for all the films, including those, which are shown for getting the subsidy, or while applying for State awards. Many producers of the Kannada film industry have now objected to this annual increase of the preview show rate. The state information department considered these protests and then wrote two letters to the Government. But both times, the finance department did not accept the proposal of the information department.

The preview theatre in the Badami house has a seating capacity of 150. An advantage in watching a film at Badami house is that it has got ARC projection. The light on the screen is uniform, and the DTS is good. The major problem is with vehicle parking, and the toilet maintenance is the worst, to say the least. Availability of potable and clean water has always been a problem. Maintenance has not been good. But the preview theaters at G.M. Rejoyz or at Arjun arts, which charge Rs. 3000 per preview show, have enough parking space, a nice ambience, and the DTS sound quality is also very good.

Nearly 70 - 80 Kannada movies get censored. Earlier, the censor board members saw the films at Badami house. Later they shifted to G.M. Rejoyz. Now they watch the films at Arjun Arts owned by MLA Kumara Bangarappa! In 1995 when the theater rent was Rs. 260, there was a lot of demand for it since there were no other proper preview theaters in Bangalore. Film producers used to get recommendations from the ministers to screen their films there. But times have changed now!

Assume that a maximum of 10 units of power is consumed for screening a full- length film. But if there is a 15% hike every year, it means that in a few years, the rent will go up to Rs 5,000!

Now approximately 70 movies will go and apply for 100%, about 60 movies will be screened during the selection for state award, and about 50 movies will be screened while selecting for subsidy. While selecting for the state award or for subsidy, 3 films will be screened per day! This means that most of the time Priyadharshini Theater will not be working!

When the government is spending crores of rupees for helping the Kannada film industry, what is the need for hiking the preview show cost by 15% every year?

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