Bengaluru: Do you know that Kempegowda Road in Bengaluru once had the highest number of theatres? There were so many theaters packed into one square kilometre that Bombay's Grant Road paled into insignificance. Bengaluru once had 149 theatres. Historian Suresh Moona says people used to come to theaters in bullock carts from Koramangala, packing food for a picnic.
The theatres were crucial in the growth of the film industry. Slowly film societies started mushrooming and film activity boomed in the city.
Taking the audience on a nostalgic journey at the Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFes) in a seminar titled 'Theatres in Bengaluru: Then and Now', Moona said theaters started vanishing after the entry of multiplexes and Bengaluru started to take shape as a global city.
It was the theatre movement, which started in 1900, that provided the spring board for films. Actors like Raj Kumar, Srinath, Vishnuvardan, Manjula were all from theatre.
The Kannada film industry started with the distribution of Hindi films in Bengaluru. Film activity started at the Anjaneya temple at Chickpet. Even the Cantonment area had a good number of theatres which catered to the needs of the British, Moona explained.
Elgin, built in 1886, was the first theatre in Bengaluru. Everest and Sharada were renovated and continue to stand while majority of the old theatres have vanished. Vijaya Lakshmi theatre in Chickpet used to give concession to students to encourage young viewers. Moona explained how the trend of morning shows started with Sharada theatre.
Bengaluru film theatres have many firsts. Kapali was the first theatre in Asia to have a 70 mm theatre screen. Bengaluru had a drive-in theater on Bannerghatta Road near Dairy Circle, which had to make way for commercial ventures during the real estate boom in the city.
The glorious era started declining around 20 years ago with the entry of multiplexes. “As we advanced electronically, theaters declined,'' Moona said, adding that even the multiplexes cannot survive beyond ten years as mobile phones have started taking over the entertainment industry....