Horror Story In Colombo Cinemas
By Dinouk Colombage - Pictures by Asoka Fernando
Going to the cinema is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. In Colombo it is far from this with the dilapidated state of these cinema halls.
Poorly lit hallways, unclean floors can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and overall unhygienic; this describes the state of the cinemas that so many citizens of Colombo flock to enjoy the films. While movie goers are forced to pay on average Rs. 400 for a ticket, they are also forced to endure the uncomfortable conditions that accompany the show.
The Liberty Cinema in Colombo has been the host for numerous blockbuster films, dating back to the early 90s. In recent times, while still attracting these films the standards of the establishment have declined remarkably.
Recently, attending the showing of ‘Madagascar 3’ at the Liberty Cinema highlighted how poor the situation had got. With the large demand for tickets, the crowd was forced to queue up outside the cinema standing in the rain. With the torrential downpour, and the lack of any proper drainage, many of the patrons were already complaining before even entering the cinema.
Despite having reserved seats, there were no ushers in place to help the people find their respective seats. This led to a great deal of shuffling between rows and seats, mimicking a game of musical chairs. It took the cinema management over ten minutes to realise that there was a problem before ushers were sent in to help.
The interior of the cinema was in a poor condition; the ground was sticky and littered with old food wrappers while the seat covers were torn and in some instances the seats were stained with food. Numerous people complained to the ushers, but they looked on blankly explaining that the cleaners would only come in after the film.
While the film was enjoyable, the constant swatting of mosquitoes was making people highly agitated. With the growing dengue epidemic in Sri Lanka, the lack of concern by the cinema management was extremely disturbing.
Being forced to use the bathroom during the interval was another horror experience. There were only two bathroom stalls for a 300 plus audience and from the state of it, it was clear that it had not been cleaned since morning.
Liberty Cinema manager, Rasika Fernando, said that they hire a cleaning company to clean the cinema hall between each film. “That is why there is often a delay to allow patrons in to the cinema, on some occasions when the crowds are large we will tell them to only clean out the rubbish and do the rest at closing time,” he said.
Fernando, while apologising, was unable to offer an explanation for the state of the bathrooms. “This is a rare occurrence we have never had complaints about the cleanliness of the bathrooms before,” he said.
When the issue of the mosquitoes was brought up, Fernando looked alarmed while suggesting that with the recent rain they may seek the refuge of the dark cinema hall. He said that he would be notifying the Colombo Municipal Council, while adding “the management is very careful to make sure no breeding grounds exist on the property”.
Neighbouring Liberty Cinema is Liberty Lite, while a more modern and cleaner cinema hall the biggest concern that exists is the small fire exit. Only able to accompany a single person at a time, on first glance it appears to be a severe fire hazard.
Movie Works (Pvt) Ltd, the owners of Liberty Lite, refused to comment explaining that all complaints must be submitted in writing.
The Savoy Cinema 2 in Wellawatta portrayed a similar story, with poor hygienic conditions and a cinema hall that had not been properly maintained.
Johann Gunaratne, a father of two, esxplained that he had decided against going for the film after seeing the state of the cinema. “I demanded a refund and am taking my children home. This was supposed to be a family outing, but how can I take them to a cinema that smells like a poorly used bathroom?” he said.
Gunaratne criticised the management for the poor maintenance saying “they expect us to pay for tickets and they cannot even provide a clean hall. We would be more comfortable renting a film and watching it at home.” Cinema Manager, N. Gurusinghe, apologised for the condition explaining that with the recent rain it was difficult to keep the cinema hall clean. “The people are constantly walking in and out of the cinema with muddy shoes. With the large numbers we have to accommodate, it is difficult to keep the place clean,” he said. Gurusinghe added that despite those issues their cleaning staff were working extra hard to ensure that the movie goers had an enjoyable experience. Despite the poor quality of cinema halls in and around Colombo, the crowds continue to flock to these places in a desperate attempt to find entertainment. Kavindu Senasinghe, a local university student, said that despite the state of the cinemas he continued to go. “There is no great deal of entertainment in the city; this is an expensive outing for many people but something we all enjoy. It is a shame that the cinema management does not look to improve the conditions,” he said.