Written by Tashi Wangchuk
Even after almost five decades, Mig cinema hall in Phuentsholing is as good as it was some decades ago. Things have not changed much except that now the business had gone down.
Owned by the former foreign minister, Pema Wangchuk, construction work of the hall began in 1964 and two years later, the hall started screening movies. The 670 seated cinema hall screened a Hindi movie Hong Kong for the first time, remembers some old time locals.
When the cinema hall began, it was one of the most happening place in town.
At the hall, people were offered two categories of seat to watch excluding balcony for dignitaries. A few recollect that when the movie was screened for the first time, the first person to enter the Hall was given gift hampers.
Tilak Sharma, who was a student in Phuentsholing junior high school then, was among the first person to enter the second class seats. He recalls that he was given a Chinese flask for being the first person to enter the Hall.
People say that Mig hall is the first cinema hall in the country but some contradict that the cinema hall in Samdrup Jongkhar was established way before.
However, the Mig cinema hall did a brisk business in the many years that followed. That is until the arrival of television that snuffed movie going culture.
The Hall used to screen four shows a day. Morning, matinee, evening and night shows were its usual schedule.
People from distant places like Dalsingpara tea garden also used to come almost every day to watch movies. New Hindi movies were its daily treat and it also screened some Hollywood movies. Movies of Hollywood actors like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chain often did well apart from Hindi movies.
The main factor complementing its good business was because the television sets at that time were too costly for people to buy and also because television were prohibited in the country.
To screen a movie, officials of the Hall used to purchase or hire reels of new movies released. They had to pay about Nu 75,000 as an advance payment before movies were released in Indian theaters.
Those were the times when the cinema hall used to make good profits. Till 1999, it was a boom period of business for Mig hall. But after the government lifted the ban on television, business started declining.
Officials also blame the evolution of modern electronics which made a radical reduction in the cost of TV sets. Because of cheaper rate, people started buying TVs at their home and stopped going to the Hall.
To make the matter worst, government stopped Indians from passing through the gate after 9 PM on security grounds which ultimately affected its evening and night shows.
As Bhutanese movies started gaining momentum, Mig hall stoped screening Hindi movies since July, 2007. Since then, the Hall has lost its Indian viewers. The rent of the Hall per show is not less than Nu 2,500.
Ever since, it started screening Bhutanese movies, hardly any movies could attract houseful viewers. Mig hall is run by five employees who say that they can hardly manage to get their salary from the Hall. It is even more difficult for them to pay taxes like urban land tax, business income tax and personal income tax.