From cinematic glory to haunted house

State’s first 70 mm movie hall lay sealed as corporation and Kokers group haggle over dues

Published: 11th July 2019 06:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2019 06:59 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: It is the first 70 mm screen in Kerala. Moreover, Kokers theatre, one of the oldest cinema halls in Kochi, is also a major landmark in West Kochi, one of the favourite tourist spots in the state. However, the theatre has now been closed down for more than two years, after Kochi Corporation sealed the property for non-payment of lease arrears by the theatre owner.

The civic body has now come up with an ambitious plan to set up a multiplex and a cultural centre in the 60 cents of land where the theatre complex is situated. Though the proposal is two years’ old, the corporation has not been able to carry forward the project, as a result of which the property is now in an abandoned state.

With weeds and shrubs growing all over the land, the theatre which has shown myriad colours of movies on-screen once now wears the look of a haunted mansion.“It is really sad to see Kokers theatre in such a state. I still remember watching Hollywood classics at the theatre which has a 70 mm screen -- classics like Benhur, Ten Commandments and The Bible. More than a cinema hall, it was like a passion for us as movies were the lone entertainment those days,” remembers Abdul Majeed, a shop owner of Mattanchery.

The Kokers theatre was started by film producer of yesteryears late V K Pareekkutty in 1969. The theatre was launched as Zaina 70 mm movie house. For Pareekkutty, the cinema hall was a venue to screen world-class films at its full glory. That was how he set up a 70 mm screen, which was a rarity at that time.
After his demise, Kokers Group took over Zaina theatre and renamed it as Kokers Cinema. They bought the theatre building. Pareekkutty had taken the land on lease from the then Municipal Corporation. Kokers also continued the lease agreement.

After the 30-year lease period ended, the agreement was renewed for another 10 years and later for five years.In 2017, corporation officials sealed the property as well as the theatre complex with the help of the police citing that the theatre owners owed Rs 33 lakh in dues to the corporation. The owner filed a petition at the High Court, and the issue is under consideration of the court.

“Though the corporation owns the land, the theatre building is ours. Earlier, as per a court order, we held discussions with the corporation authorities in the presence of the local administration secretary. Though the latter put forth a compromise formula where the civic body should entrust us with the management of the theatre till a concrete project is mooted, the corporation officials were not ready to accept it,” said Ziyad Koker, owner of Kokers group.

He said the digital theatre system, the UFO projection mechanism and the whole building are lying unused and rusting. “We have now filed a petition seeking compensation for the loss that we have suffered in the form of various technical facilities that we had installed at the theatre,” added Koker.With the issue being under the court’s consideration, the corporation’s plan for setting up the multiplex and cultural centre at Fort Kochi also remains as a non-starter.

Multiplex project not scrapped, says corp official

Kochi: The Kochi Corporation has set aside a provision in its previous budgets for setting up a multiplex and a cultural centre on the land where the Kokers theatre is situated. However, with the issue being under the High Court’s consideration, the civic body has not been able to launch the project.“The theatre owner is asking for compensation and the price of the equipment and building, which he owns. Though the PWD carried out a valuation of the assets, it was not agreeable to the owner.  The owner also owes a huge amount to the corporation in the form of arrears. We are waiting for the issue to be resolved,” said Kochi Corporation Welfare Standing Committee chairman A B Sabu. He said the proposal for setting up the multiplex and cultural centre has not been scrapped. “We are hopeful of implementing the project. A preliminary round of discussion was held with the officials of Kerala Film Development Corporation,” he added.

Kokers Theatre, Kochi
Established: 1969 as Zaina Movie House
Total area:60 cents
Closed down: April 27, 2017

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