Echo

Bangladesh: Movie Theaters Are Dying  

Posted by Rezwan

This post was written in Bangla by Pantha Rahman Reza and translated for Global Voices Online by Rezwan

Watching movies in theaters was once a favorite pastime for Bengalis. The custom was to go to the movies on the holidays or special days. It was popular culture to follow the fashion and postures of the stars of the new released cinemas.

But cinema-loving Bengalis do not go to movie theaters nowadays and the country's cinema halls are closing one by one, as new shopping malls are being erected in their place. According to reports in the past decade, hundreds of cinema halls have been closed down [bn]. There also used to be approximately 100 cinemas built each year, which has now decreased to 30-40 [bn].

Darashiko blogs on cinema regularly. Here he shares the latest state of the Bangladeshi film industry [bn]:
Shyamoli Cinema Hall is just a memory. A 14-story shopping mall is being built in its place. Image courtesy Wikipedia
Shyamoli Cinema Hall is just a memory. A 14-story shopping mall is being built in its place. Image courtesy Wikipedia
The Bangladeshi cinema industry is going through its worst time. In 1990-91 the number of cinema halls were around 1230. But in 2010 the number has decreased to 742. Out of 44 cinema halls in Dhaka 33 are surviving. Huge building were erected in their place. Big names like, Gulistan, Shyamoli, Naz, Lion, Star, Shabistan, Tajmahal cinema etc. went into oblivion. With Lack of quality script and mediocre performance the cinema industry managed releasing of 100 movies per annum. In 2010 the number was 63, one of the lowest in the decade. Its getting much worse. In 2011, in first six months only 19 cinemas were released and only 300 million Taka (US $3.6 million) was invested. Newspaper reports say that this year only 45 films will be produced and the next year it would be only 30.
But why are movie theaters being closed down? Why are audiences not going to movie theaters? Megh Roddur writes [bn] about it:
Of course I want to go to the movie theaters to watch movies. It hurts but the truth is that most of the movies are not of my taste. Why should I watch a movie full of weird costumes and blunt themes. Why should I go and watch repeating stories? Why should I go and watch copycats and gross copypaste movies?
The building behind the sculpture was once the famous Gulistan Cinema Hall. Now its a clothes market. Image by Ranadipam Basu. Used with permission.
The building behind the sculpture was once the famous Gulistan Cinema Hall. Now its a clothes market. Image by Ranadipam Basu. Used with permission.

A guest blogger at Sachalayatan reminisces about his childhood memories of going to cinemas with family. The blogger blames the film distributors for lack of viewers in movie theaters:
Now we don't watch movies in Theaters with family. I would not blame low quality pictures. I would place the blame on the environment of the movie theaters. There are a few good movies still being produced. Still we cannot go with the family to watch them in this environment.
Lekhajoka Shamim cites three reasons for the demise of this industry:
The low quality of the local cinema, indecent movies and the environment of the movie thater are the causes of lack of movie viewers.
Once the thought of going to movie theaters was an exciting thing. Many had keen interest. Russel Ashraf tells one such story:
Me and my uncle went to see the movie “Aguner Poroshmoni”. We thought that there would be no rush and went a few minutes before the start. But alas, we saw that the queue was extended to the road. What to do! Waited in the queue for the tickets and manged a seat in front of the screen. I could not move my neck for three days in pain.
To save the film industry and bring more viewers in movie theaters, the government decided to remove the ban on Indian cinema (it should be noted that Indian movies have been banned here since 1965). This move attracted sharp criticisms online.
Balaka cinema hall besides Dhaka New market. Image from Wikipedia by Ragib Hasan
Balaka cinema hall besides Dhaka New market. Image from Wikipedia by Ragib Hasan

Nazrul Islam says in a post in Amrabondhu blog:
Not from the hatred of Hindi language films, the government has to back down from such wretched decision to save a dying industry.।
But there are also those who favor import of movies:

One blogger (Fahmidul Haque) says:
To me its a right of a citizen to be able to watch local and international movies of different tastes. Lets not limit this right with the debate of saving of local industry by stopping the import of Indian movies.
Due to much criticism the government decided to reverse the decision to withdraw ban from the Indian movies.

Kallol Mustafa has specific suggestions on how to revive the local film industry:
We need government institution support, financial responsibility, institutionalization of the industry and mandatory show of international movies (not only Indian) in a week each month in every theater.

This entry was posted on May 09, 2012 at Wednesday, May 09, 2012 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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