Thursday, November 11, 2010

Premiere show

Just over a year ago, I had written about Madras' second cinema theatre. The first, by all accounts remained untraceable. Now, it appears that the city's first cinema hall is standing, still. The Broadway of the early 20th century was as much a bustling business district as it is a hundred years later. It was on this road that a certain Mrs Klug decided to try her hand at running a movie hall; rather a permanent movie hall. In the early days of motion pictures in India, the pictures as well as their exhibition spaces were both mobile, so the establishment of a fixed venue was in itself a novelty.

Very factually named, "Mrs. Klug's Biosocope" - "The Broadway Bioscope" or "The Bioscope" - opened for business sometime early in 1911. Although the permanency aspect was highlighted only much later, the crowds were eager to take in this new form of entertainment. The leading newspaper of those days - Madras Times - played a large role in establishing the 'permanency' of the exhibition hall, for that is essentially what it was. But was there ever a "Mrs. Klug"? Or was it some genius marketer, who used a nom de screen to convince folks that movies were something so respectable that a married woman could run it single-handedly? Considering that the Bioscope ran 'continuous shows' (something that Chennai has missed ever since Blue Diamond was razed) from 6pm to 11pm every day - last show starting at 9pm - it may well have been a way to assure potential moviegoers that they were getting into a respectable establishment! We may never know that, for Mrs. Klug's last show was sometime in October 1911 and there has been no news of her since.

Many of Chennai's history buffs have been unable to find the exact location of where Mrs. Klug had her Bioscope. A few months ago, Dr. Stephen Hughes, in an article in "The Hindu", points to enough evidence for it to have been operating from the first floor of this building, which is even today home to some long-standing institutions. Now, let us hope the structure does not crumble under the added weight of being the location of India's first ever permanent movie hall!



Nice picture...

That quite a bit of history in a single picture with Sukrutha Lakshmi Vilasa Sabha and B.M.Davey in addition to the legend of Mrs.Klug!!!

Shantaram said...

@ Karthik: Isn't it? Will have to write up on SLVS and BMD sometime soon.