Kapali, the iconic film theatre in the city, which has been witness to many landmarks events of Sandalwood, has been shut. Plan to demolish the building and replace it with a shopping complex and a five-screen multiplex was in the works for the last few years. In 2013, the demolition was imminent but was put off. But this time, it is for real. The theatre stopped screening films on Thursday. The last film was Huliraya which released last Friday.
Ravi Dasappa, one of the owners of the property, told Mirror, said, “A five-screen multiplex will come up in place of this theatre. We hope to complete the work in three years.” The closure on Thursday, though predicted, came as a surprise to the film folk. Film publicist Vijay Kumar, whose film Aadu Aata Aadu was announced to be released on October 13 (today), was the most surprised. “We had no inkling to the sudden closure. There were talks about shutting down for the last few months. That it happened today has come as a surprise,” he said. Kapali was a Cinerama theatre which screened Cinerama films when it was launched in 1968. It was the largest Cinerama theatre in Asia and the third largest in the world when it was launched with a seating capacity of 1,465. Kapali was to remain the only Cinerama theatre in India with a screen size of 84ft x 32ft.
Very few Cinerama films were made but with the advent of Cinemascope, Kapali became a favourite of audience who wanted to watch those films on a really big screen. Rajkumar’s Mannina Maga was the first film to run for a 100 days in Kapali.
Over the years, the seating capacity was reduced from 1,465 to 1,112, but it still remained one of the largest.
The theatre sits on a property that is 60,000 sqft. The value of the land is estimated at Rs 120-Rs 150 crore. The theatre was earning a weekly rent from filmmakers of Rs 4.5 lakh. Sources say that it was not profitable for the owners or the lease holders. The lease holders paid Rs 3 lakh to the owners a week but ended up spending the rest of the rent on the maintenance of the theatre. The monthly electricity bill of the theatre is around Rs 1.2 lakh while the water bill was Rs 12,500. The profit margin was too low for the theatre to continue as it was. With a shopping complex in its place, the owners can look to earn at least Rs 23 lakh in rent per month. Insiders cite the example of the Swagath theatre in Jayanagar which is now a shopping complex and multiplex.
In the 1960s, Cinerama was touted as the technological future of films. The technology was in complete contrast to the existing 35mm format films. Cinerama films were shot on three separate 35mm cameras and projected on screen by three projectors. Each projector projected a 35mm image making a complete picture. In this format the images ran horizontally (which anyway was not visible to the naked eye watching the film on the screen) rather than vertically. It is common to refer to theatre screens as ‘silver screens’ but Cinerama screns were made of ‘plastic strip-screen’. Being the only Cinerama theatre in India, Kapali attracted the audience whenever such films were screened. But it was only for a few years. Very soon no films were made with Cinerama technology and Kapali screened regular films.
Due to its huge size and seating capacity, Kapali was referred to as the ‘godown’ in the film industry. Most filmmakers did not want their films to be screened in this theatre as it was difficult to hang a ‘houseful’ tag outside. Even then dozens of films have recorded successful runs in this theatre. Quite a few have celebrated a hundred-day run here. It was a matter of pride for Kannada films to get houseful shows in Kapali.