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Saturday June 16, 2007

Movie fans go on rampage


KUALA LUMPUR: Pandemonium reigned at more than 10 theatres on Thursday night when the premiere of the much-anticipated Tamil movie Sivaji – The Boss was either delayed or cancelled. 

The movie, starring South Indian superstar Rajinikanth and released simultaneously in India and Malaysia on Thursday, was supposed to start at 9pm but was delayed at some cinemas by about six hours and cancelled at others. 

Keeping watch: A policeman observing the crowd of disappointed movie fans at the State Cinema in Petaling Jaya on Thursday night.
Disappointed fans turned violent, causing damage at a number of cinemas. Police had to be called in at various venues to stop the outbreak of violence. 

In Penang, fans turned unruly at the delay and banged on ticket counters, some demanding a refund and others insisting that the movie be screened. Police were called in to control the situation and the movie was screened after a three-hour delay. 

In Klang's Sri Intan theatre, fans who had waited more than five hours for the movie to start, wrecked the cinema lobby, breaking ticket counters and set fire to part of the theatre. The fire was immediately put out by workers. 

In Rawang, fistfights broke out, and people threw bottles, breaking glass showcases, while in Ipoh, a cinema manager was beaten up by irate fans. He suffered head injuries which required stitches. 

Police arrested several people but released them later. 

Cinemagoer D. Karthik, who had bought five tickets, said he could not see the movie because it was delayed by five hours at the State Cinema in Petaling Jaya. 

“I had already waited in line for five hours two days ago to get the tickets and I did not want to wait more than three hours to see the movie. I don't understand why they advertised opening times for the movie if they cannot start on time,” he said. 

Moviegoers demanded refunds or compensation of about RM200 for each ticket they had bought at RM12. 

At the Coliseum Cinema here, manager Sofie Baba said tickets counters were opened after 4pm, although people had started queuing from as early as noon. Those waiting turned violent when tickets to the 800-seat theatre were sold out within an hour. 

When asked about allegations that the majority of the tickets had been sold to scalpers, he said an individual could buy a maximum of six tickets only, and that the management was not aware of any such activity. 

S. Vel Paari, CEO of the movie's distributor Pyramid Saimira Theatre Chain, apologised for the delay and cancellation of the movie in some theatres. 

“Rain and delay in getting the digital password from India for security reasons to beat piracy were the primary reasons for the delay and cancellations. Because of the rain, our delivery was affected and as a result, there was a delay in the screening of the movie,” he said. 

He added that the Chennai-based movie producer, AVM, had supplied only 42 prints instead of the scheduled 53. 

“The remaining 11 prints of the movie had to be downloaded through the Internet,” he said.  

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