Cinema industry pressed for assistance
Sunil T. Fernando is not only renowned for his productions and as the
owner of 68 cinema theatres but he had also set a record as the producer
of the highest number of films in Sinhala cinema, ranging up to 48
productions. He entered the field by producing Madduma Bandara and his
most recent film was Veda Beri Tarzan 2.
Picture by Tennyson Edirisinghe
“Mamai Raja and Jaya Apatai, both starring Vijaya Kumaratunga, set
records which cannot be broken easily. Jaya Apatai is a black and white
movie with a cast full of renowned actors. H.R. Jothipala contributed to
the background vocals and all these facts made it a hit. Mamai Raja was
released after Kumaratunga’s death. It included some dialogues which
were close to his life and the film unspooled for 200 days,” Fernando
You are a producer, theatre owner and a managing director of the
M.P.I. Cinema exhibiting committee. What are your experiences with the
films of today?
It is very easy to produce a film today but problems arise in
publicising them. We have lost some cinema theatres in Jaffna,
Batticaloa, Trincomalee and several other areas in the conflict zone.
It costs about Rs. 10 million to publicise a film. For instance it
takes about Rs. one lakh to show a 15 second trailer on a TV channel. It
is commendable that Dialogue CTV and TV Lanka are airing movie trailers
free of charge.
Siyatha FM took over publicising my film, Veda Beri Tarzan, free of
charge. Most people involved in this field do not have the facilities or
money to engage in this much needed process. It will be beneficial for
the industry if appropriate measures can be adapted to make things
easier for the producers.
What are the difficulties that you face in maintaining cinema halls?
Cooray and Pumi
Purasinghe in Veda Beri Tarzan 2
Maintaining film theatres is a toilsome task. Sometimes the halls are
unable to bring in profit to pay even the monthly allowance of the
employees. Many people were interested in working at film halls in the
past but the situation had changed today.
We need Government assistance to maintain cinema halls. The monthly
electricity bill itself costs around Rs. five lakhs for a well furbished
cinema hall and I have to pay an electricity bill that costs round Rs.
two lakhs for Ricky cinema.
I still maintain cinemas in the Bulnewa, Aluthgama and Piliyandala
areas sans profit. I got an offer to convert one of my cinemas into a
That cinema only brings in about Rs. one and a half lakhs per month.
If renovation is in demand then the whole profit is lost. We maintain
these halls with the hope of uplifting the cinema industry. It will be a
relief for us if the Government can at least give us a discount in the
electricity bills for cinema halls.
Is the Sri Lankan cinema on the verge of a crisis today?
No. There is no crisis. The biggest challenge is to draw crowds to
see films. The society is faced with an economic crisis. They do not
have money to carry on with their daily life let along entertain
themselves by watching a film.
People are hesitant to watch the 9.30 pm show because they have
problems getting back home. Most cinemas do not screen movies at 9.30 pm
as crowds do not turn up. The same amount has to be spent by theatre
owners on each screening, even if it is house full or if most of the
seats are empty. Due to this, we print around 31 copies of a film in one
go and expect the film to succeed in its first round of publicity.
What is the National Film Corporation’s response to this matter? Is
in Mamai Raja
NFC Chairman, Jayantha Dharmadasa, is doing his best to overcome such
problems in the industry. He had spoken to producers, directors, actors,
technicians and owners of cinema halls and we all support him in his
quest to bring masses back into cinema theatres.
The NFC also has its share of problems but when we go to discuss our
problems with them, they have never driven us away. We are grateful to
all of them for their service and the
support they give the chairman.
Tell us about your next film. When is it due?
Sunil Soma Peries will direct the film and shooting will commence in
Sri Lanka and India soon. Both children and adults will be able to enjoy
the story. It is essential to make new creations to keep the industry
live and kicking.
Was Veda Beri Tarzan 2 a success?
Veda Beri Tarzan 2 was not as successful as its first part but we
were able to earn the sum that we spent on making the movie.
However we succeeded entertaining the audience. People who had to
spend the latter part of their day amidst problems came to see the film
and enjoyed it a lot.
The Dark Night in Colombo
The follow-up to the action hit ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’
reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who once
again embodies the man behind the mask.
‘The Dark Knight’ takes Batman across the world in his quest to fight
a growing criminal threat.
With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District
Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman has been making headway
against local crime...until a rising criminal mastermind known as The
Joker (Heath Ledger) unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham
To stop this devious new menace-Batman’s most personal and vicious
enemy yet-he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and
confront everything he believes. Catch the action as ‘The Dark Knight’
unspools at Liberty cinema.
Short Film Festival
Entries for the Short Film Festival organised under the patronage of
the National Film Corporation are being accepted for this year’s (2008)
competition. The closing date for entries is September 19. More details
could be had from 2585721.
Who is Aba?
‘Who is Aba?’, a seminar organised by Swarna Sanka Foundation on
Jackson Anthony’s film, Aba will be held at the Mahaweli Center, Colombo
7, on September 11 at 3.30 pm.
Nilar N. Casim will compere the event. Dr. D.B Nihalsinghe, Somaratne
Dissanayake and Sunil Mihindukula will also speak.