Seven-week stall impacts state B.O.

MUMBAI — Exhibs in the south Indian state of Karnataka have been forced to delay the release of Hollywood and Bollywood films by seven weeks to protect the local industry.

The delay, which began Aug. 1, is hitting Fox’s “I, Robot,” DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2” and Miramax’s “Kill Bill Vol. 2” as well as Aishwarya Rai’s “Kyon! Ho gaya na” (See! It Has Happened) in the state.

Until recently the state protected the regional film industry by slapping a 70% entertainment tax on non-Kannada-language films, but the tax was lowered to 40%. That made the other films more attractive to exhibs and auds in the state.

The seven-week delay is putting a damper on the box office, especially since India’s high rate of piracy means auds can get these movies at home soon after their release.

The Kannada Film Producers Assn. and vet thesp Rajkumar protested in the streets of the capital, Bangalore, last week to raise awareness of the poor state of the Kannada film biz.

However, critics say protectionism won’t help the ailing regional film industry, which basically remakes movies that are hits in other languages.

Exhibitors also are upset because there is not enough regional product or demand for it to fill their theaters.

Karnataka and Bangalore typically account for 5% to 7% of India’s box office receipts.

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