G. V. Prasada Sarma

Owner of Poorna Theatre is firm on running it but wants some concessions from State

VISAKHAPATNAM: One of the oldest cinema theatres in these parts of the country is now facing hard times. Poorna Theatre, a landmark in the Telugu film exhibition history, is now a pale shadow of its glorious past. A handful of audience from poorer sections saunter into the morning show of a re-run of a junior NTR-starrer. They mostly buy the Rs.6, Class III ticket, the lowest that is ludicrously low when compared to the multiplex ticket price.

While the 80-year-old cinema hall which is so famous that the nearby Sardar Vallabhai Patel vegetable market is more famous only as Poorna Market, has a narrow entry its ample, open to sky parking space, is a luxury not many theatres can afford.

Considering the golden phases it went through it should merit recognition as a part of the growth and legacy of the industry, says G.V. Ramaiah, its partner.

Industry does not mean only actors and producers but others who have worked for its growth, he contends. The theatre was first founded as Sri Krishna Picture Palace, a semi-permanent theatre, in 1927 by Mr. Ramaiah's grandfather G.K. Mangaraju and C. Pullaiah, who later directed the Telugu films most revered film Lavakusa. Before the advent of talkie films it screened silent movies.

By 1930, Pullaiah went into production and Mangaraju got it constructed as a full-fledged theatre and named it Poorna. In 1949, the balcony was constructed and it opened with Laila Majnu and its heroine Bhanumati Ramakrishna inaugurated it.

It had another distinction when it turned out to be the first cinemascope theatre in 1955. The management continued to improve and in 1980 the theatre was fully renovated and opened with the Hollywood film Force 10 From Navarone. With the advent of several air-conditioned theatres, the theatre started screening old films and re-runs.

Mr. Ramaiah says it is the oldest theatre running with the same name and under the same management in the entire South India. He is firm on running the theatre and complying with the administration's latest order got installed fire safety equipment because of his love for the theatre sacrificing his meagre profits.

He plans to approach the State Government urging some concessions so that the theatre can continue to run. “While maintaining the same external appearance, we will air-condition it and improve facilities in the hall,” says Mr. Ramayya. Otherwise other options like going in for conversion of space will be explored.