The closure of Liberty Cinema

By Leonard Gildarie
Stabroek News
September 25, 2000

The curtains of Liberty Cinema, after some 36 years, came together for the final time on Wednesday night, marking the end of a tradition for fans of Indian films. The sale of the Vlissengen Road cinema to the New Thriving Restaurant, it was claimed, was prompted by failure of the authorities to address concerns of cinema owners over the flagrant disregard of the copyright laws by television operators. Films being shown in cinemas were being aired simultaneously on local television. Cinemas began to struggle as they incurred high overhead expenses, including a 25% entertainment tax. What the People Say managed to catch up with a few of the patrons and others during the cinema's last shows on Wednesday. There were tears in the eyes of many and this was what they had to say on what the cinema's closure meant to them:

Narima Khan - film distribution official: 'Even now, I still find it difficult to believe and to express how I feel. I have been in the film business for about 25 years and have a lot of personal experiences with this cinema. It is an unfortunate thing that the government did not pay heed to our appeals for help in the cinema industry. Liberty is a Grade A cinema and I recall the days when we would normally visit the cinema. Those were the days of the long lines and large crowds. Police had horse-guards [mounted police] around to control the crowds. It was difficult to get to enter the cinema. I will miss it. Even now I wish something can be done. One time I can recall is in 1981-1982 when I was pregnant. The lines were long and I think the movie was Kranti. It was craziness to get in and the horse guards were all around. I can never forget the joy I used to get from going to the cinema.'

Dennis Dillon - Manager of Liberty Cinema for 30 years: 'I am sad at the whole situation. To me it is like a child separated from its mother. I devoted my entire life to Liberty Cinema and even though it is now closed, in my heart I will always be working at Liberty and will always be an employee of Liberty. I can barely catch myself. It was a grand time when Liberty was in its days. Lines used to be stretching as far as Lamaha Street and police on horses had to be used to control the crowds. It is no more. As the manager I will always remember the thrill I got every time I buzzed the front door and saw the long lines waiting to get in. How can anyone describe the feeling?'

Jainarine Singh- pump operator: 'What can one say? I am saddened by the decision. I can understand Mr [Pradeep] Samtani's [owner of the cinema] decision but the cinema has many memories for me. I first met my wife here and I am a regular here. Whenever I have time I come here. It is too late for this cinema but the government should seriously look into the entire industry and try to assist. I have to look for somewhere else to see movies now.'

Mark Forde - push cart labourer: 'I find it hard to believe the cinema is closing. My East Indian wife who died over a year ago used to bring me here to see movies. She loved them. So the cinema has a lot of memories for me. Now that the cinema has closed I am still unable to believe it because whenever I come here I always remember my wife. Even now I wish that something could be done to stop the closure. I will miss coming here.'

Tina Rai - 'It is sad to know that the cinema is closing. Whenever my fiancee who lives abroad is in the country I would normally bring him here. This was the first cinema that we went to and he liked it. I was not even aware that the cinema was closing but my cousin told me and I had to visit it for the last time. I am really shaken by the news and still cannot believe it. I wish something could be done to keep the doors open. I will always remember Liberty.'

Nalini Singh- Bourda Market vendor: 'I am here every Sunday. My husband who is dead used to come here frequently with me. What makes it so hard is the fact that Liberty is in the area that I am living. Even now it is hard for me to believe it is closing. I will miss it as it holds a lot of memories for me and something has been taken from me. I wish this was not happening. I decided to come here after hearing of today's sudden closure. It happened so fast.'

Kavinish Lakharam- Lubricant Consultant (with wife Deomattie Dhanraj): 'It is a sad occasion for everyone. Government should have intervened and done something for the people who frequent the cinema. If the movies are being aired on television before being shown on screen then people will prefer to stay home. The cinema is a place for entertainment. Somewhere you could go and really enjoy a movie with the full sound effects and everything. The first movie I saw with my wife was here. I remember the days with the large crowds and horse-guards. It was memorable. I expect more cinemas to be closed if something is not done urgently.'

Dhanrajie Singh- housewife: 'I really must say something. I have been coming for years now. Every time there is an advance show I am here. This cinema shows good movies and I really enjoy myself here. I went to other cinemas but they are not as good as this one. I urge that people boycott the television stations that continue to hurt the cinemas.'

Mohan Singh- businessman (with son Visham): 'I am shocked at the sudden closing. Every Sunday I bring my five children to the cinema. It is a tradition for us. I have no other place to go that I can readily think of now. I started coming here since I was about 11-12 years. It would affect me and family because other than the Botanical Gardens, it is the only place that we go. It is also one of the first places that I brought my wife to.'

Dolores Grant- housewife: 'What to say? I want back my cinema! Right now I am having a big headache thinking about the closure. You see, I live right in Sophia and whenever I want, I just jump into a bus and come here. The other cinemas in Georgetown are too dangerous to go to and then I really like Indian movies. This cinema shows good movies too. I want the cinema to reopen.'

Lennox Nestor- Carpenter: 'The closing of the cinema means a whole lot to me and to many others. In addition to cinema-goers, there are the vendors outside, the shops next door and the cinema staff. I grew up here and all my friends are working at the cinema. I probably saw all the movies that were shown here. Even now I cannot believe it. I remember the days of Sholay and other big movies. The long lines and the pushing to get in. I have to find a new hanging spot now. I will really miss it. I love the cinema.'

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