Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fantasy world

It was in 1896 that the Lumiere brothers visited India with their 'cinematographe'. Madras was not on their itinerary; it was Bombay that they favoured, making it the fourth city in their world tour, the other three being London, New York and Buenos Aires. It is said, however, that a firm named Madras Photographic Store advertised a show of 'animated photographs', which would make it the first 'motion picture' show in the city. I have not been able to find any reliable data to back the claim of the Madras Photographic Store, so we must turn elsewhere to find the city's first movie theatre.

Given the fickle nature of the movie industry, it is no surprise that the first cinema in the city is no longer in business. Neither is the second, the Electric Theatre, but at least it remained in business for a couple of years and is sometimes credited as being the first - it helps that the building still exists. The first theatre of Madras was the rather factually named Bioscope, which opened for business in 1911, but closed down within a few months. Not much is known about this theatre, save that it was on Broadway (or Popham's Broadway, as it was then called) and was owned by a Mrs. Klug.

Of Mrs. Klug, too, we hear little else; she is part of Chennai's history, but nobody seems to know who she was or where she went to after her pioneering attempt failed. The only cinema on Broadway - though it boggles the mind that Broadway can actually have a cinema - is the New Broadway Talkies, show in the photograph. That there was an older Broadway Talkies at this site is known - but it is still unknown if that one came up where the Bioscope used to be. That would be a truly filmy ending!


uvaraj said...

Huh ! Have to appreciate you finding (research) all these info. Good work and good to know. Some of the theatres I knew, from 12 years ago, are already missing or transformed into offices/malls. Its interesting to know this one survives.

Ram N said...

Ha haa ... You beat me at the post ... it was supposedly 2mrows .. :(