If Bengaluru's single screen theatres had a story, the title would be 'winding up'

Rex theatre on Brigade Road will screen its last film on December 31.

Rex theatre on Brigade Road will screen its last film on December 31.

The news of the eight-decade-old Rex theatre closing by the end of this year brings back memories of Paramount, the first cinema hall in Bengalure which was built 113 years ago. Doddanna Hall, a place used by professional theatre groups in Kalasipalya in the Fort area, was converted into Paramount cinema.

Those were the days when cinemas, under Colonial influence, sported Western-sounding names. The credit for building Paramount goes to Srinivasulu Naidu, Rangaswamy Naidu and Sahukar Mallappa Rudrappa, according to the chronicle of film history, Kannada Chalanachitra Ithihasa . Initially, Paramount screened silent movies. Locals never took to the exotic name and continued to call it Doddanna Hall.

Back then, the experience of watching a bioscope — an early generic name for a movie camera and projector — was just as exotic. People from the neighbouring villages came in bullock carts to watch movies.

The first Kannada talkie film Sati Sulochana was released in Paramount on March 3, 1934. “One of the songs Bhale Bhale Parvathi Balu Chature was a major hit. The story goes that food and shelter were provided in the nearby Doddanna Choultry to villagers who could not return home immediately after the show.


Paramount was razed in 1974 to pave the way for Pradeep and Parimala theatres.

Select theatre, which screened another popular talkie film of the time Bhakta Dhruva in 1934, later made way for Geetha, which too has disappeared.

But in the early days, enthused by the response, the doyen of Kannada theatre and cinema Gubbi Veeranna built Shivananda Theatre on Subhedar Chatram Road, which was later rechristened Movieland. It was the first theatre to introduce a queue system with bamboo railings.

States, which came up in 1944 on Kempe Gowda Road, drew crowds because of its balcony, which was not supported by pillars. It was renovated and rechristened Bhumika.

Prabhat cinema, built by a reputed Parsi family, started screening films in 1941. Himalaya, Kempegowda, Kapali, Menaka, Kalpana, Alankar, Majestic, Sangam, Sagar, Nartaki, Santosh followed in the Sixties.

The theatres in Cantonment area were Lakshmi, Opera, Plaza, Lido, Galaxy, Imperial and Rex.

However, most were razed once single screens became economically unviable, and only a handful remain.

K.V. Chandrashekar, former president Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), says only theatres in the Central Business District are being razed. Theatre owners on the outskirts of the city continue to run the show. “It is more profitable for theatre owners in the CBD to earn rent, without any risk, by leasing the area for commercial complexes,” he explained.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 7:35:40 am |