Home » There are several factors leading to the decline in the number of Cinema Halls

There are several factors leading to the decline in the number of Cinema Halls

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 8 minutes read

By: Herojit Nongmaithem
The wave of Manipuri films first emerged around the time of World War II, and silent movies began to be screened for public viewing. Amongst the forebears of this movement, mention may be made of Kasturichand and Sougaijam Nabakumar. It was before the end of the 2nd World War when three individuals namely Manaobi, Nilmani and Birmangol established a movie theatre called MNB Hall at Paona Bazaar and started screening films. After these came Victory Cinema, Friends Talkies and Imphal Talkies which was followed by Pratap Talkies, Usha Cinema, Shankar and Mini-Shankar along with Asha and Jina. And later with the coming up of Friends Mini, the number of cinema halls in Imphal reached 10. Around that time, these cinema halls used to display mostly Hindi Films while screening of English movies were limited to only one or two. This is a brief overview of the establishment of cinema halls in Manipur.
People associated with Cinema along with its various aspects used to receive special treatment. They availed special privileges for electricity, tap water and other supply facilities. From that time onwards, cinema had been periodically providing huge revenues to the state’s economy. Since Manipur is a state with scant means of income, the government treated Cinema with special favour due to its enormous contributions to the economy of the state. During the period, Cinemas were run in a smooth and clean manner, and so they also received valuable co-operation from law-enforcing authorities.
With the steady increase in the number of Cinema halls in Imphal and other areas of Manipur, around 3000 individuals were provided employment. From this period onwards till some 20 years back, the cinema atmosphere was quite strongly operated.
But along with the Asian Games of 1982 and the rise of television, the unfortunate period for Cinema commenced. In favour of Cinema, which used to be the sole means of comfort, public interests turned to the new medium. Even though videos came late compared to other states, the new wave of videos hit Cinema with another strong and unpredictable force; and videos stole the minds of more than 60 percent of the population. Later, more pain was inflicted to cinema when screening of Hindi movies was stopped. With rising cost of commodities in accordance with the times, the price of equipment used in running Cinemas also increased which served another major blow to it. The rate of electricity and tap water that used to be Rs 700/800 changed and Electricity tax inflated to around Rs 8000. Despite the need to maintain a profitable budget for daily expenditures and maintenance and supply of necessary amenities, there could not be any cut-offs in staff salaries; and neither social activities nor social liabilities with CSOs can also be severed. From that time onwards, Cinemas were hit hard by the impact of TV and videos. Except for few days in a week such as Sundays, the turn-up of viewers became less. The special programs showed on TV right from the morning till late in night kept people fixed to the TV screen and turned them away from Cinema halls. If such was not the case, Cinemas which have always been full on Sundays would have been crowded. And later with the introduction of Video cassettes, there was a loss of around 60 percent of Cine-goers.
There are quite some essential processes to be fulfilled in order to display a movie for the public at Cinema halls. These include distributors buying distribution rights from producers and payment of royalties; and after registration a few prints of the film are bought which are later screened around a huge area. The cost of a single print was high amounting to a huge sum of around Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000, so it was not easy to buy many prints. And so a film reach Imphal quite late which was not the case with video cassettes. As soon as a film is released, the videos arrive in two to three days. The price is also low and not so many processes are involved in purchase; and as soon as a video cassette is available, several reprints can be made instantly. These videos could now reach interested viewers in a short period of time. Since the public being can watch the films earlier either at video parlours or view it at home, cinema halls which screen the film much later became deserted. Nowadays the video format has been replaced by VCD and Blue-ray, and there is always the possibility that another new convenient technology can turn up at any moment.
To be honest, nowadays Cinema is no longer considered as an entertainment medium, it has become an education and information medium. Under the TV medium, there are also numerous Satellite Channels and a number of Pay Channels are also cropping up. They too have several benefits, but when viewers turn to the entertainment programmes shown through them, there is always a resulting decline in the number of Cine-goers.
The existing social and law and order situation also hit hard at Cinemas. Public tension and fear have contributed to the decrease in the number of cine-goers with security measures taken up from time to time taking away the serenity from the minds of people. Since it is not the case that a person will die if one does not go to the cinema, people prefer to spend their times peacefully at home and have done so. The frequent bandhs and other forms of agitations happening in the state being related to human rights, it is also the responsibility as a citizen to take part in them. However, sometimes when an agitation unexpectedly becomes prolonged, the demand or tempo of a film wanes and thus many screened films have met this unfortunate fate. And since most of the Film theatres in Imphal have been running half-empty for quite a long time, the only video hall left that has remained functioning in the heart of the city is Friends Talkies while the rest of them have all shut down.
On the other hand, it may be said that the State government has no more love for Cinema which has been contributing sizeable revenues annually in the form of entertainment taxes and surcharges to the State Exchequer. When the state’s expenses become nil and after witnessing the percentage of taxes received, it perceived that Cinema is earning huge profits and tried to increase taxes in a frightening manner on some areas. Even a gazette was received with the unexpected announcement that the show tax collected for every show displayed which used be Rs 5 each will be increased to Rs 100. The sudden increase in electricity, show and other taxes for which review was not done properly in time became one of the reasons for the large scale demise of Cinema halls in Imphal.
Film Production and Cinema have been recognised as Industries by the central government. From this, other states have received aid with special view on production, distribution and exhibition. While video films are screened at Cinema halls illegally; and resting on the notion that the state is producing the highest number of films, central funding for the production sector and exhibitors are yet to be availed.
Cinemas and Films play a vital role in bringing changes to society, and so it is highly essential for Cinema Halls to be newly opened again or established. If there are no cinema halls, there will be no longer places where films can be shown. Halls are the playgrounds for films where they could play with the people. And it would be erroneous to say that since video films are still shown, Cinema is still alive. Redressing Films and Cinemas is akin to saving the Industry and also redressing all other closely related aspects and fields. This is the most important objective at present.
Perhaps Manipur is the only state in India where video films were allowed to screen in the theatres in 2002 by violating Cinematography Rules and the Manipur Exhibition of Video Films(Regulations) Act to kill Manipur Film Industry.
Digital era entered in Manipur in 2016 with Loktak Lairembee. Since then, CBFC reveals the production of 3 film in 2018, 12 in 2019 and 2 in 2020.
The Chief Minister of Manipur, N.Biren Singh , who is also in charge of Art and Culture , said that there is no cinema hall in Manipur which have valid license.
To another question, N.Biren Singh reply that there is no film projection system called Digital Cinematograph Projector in the world as yet.
He however said that as for the Digital Cinema Projector, there is no Cinema Halls in Manipur having Digital Cinema Projector.
The Chief Minister However said that, for film promotional activities, the Palace Auditorium of Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) has a Digital Cinema Projector.


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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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