Latino Cornelius, it's Indian Bollywood, not Spanish-language films drawing crowds --> June 17--In Cornelius, the city of 12,000 with a majority Latino population, people come from all over the Portland metro area to watch Indian films.
On the surface, the trend is surprising. According to the 2010 census, only 2.2 percent of Cornelius' population is Asian, and it is unclear how much of that is Indian.
But at Cornelius Cinemas, Bollywood is among the highest rated categories of films.
Bollywood is an informal term for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. Indian cinema is largely theatrical: films combine storylines with musical elements of song and dance.
Act V Theaters owner Robert Perkins, who also runs the Forest Theater in Forest Grove, has been supplying entertainment to the Bollywood-loving crowd for the last five years. Films are screened in Cornelius at the same time they are released in India.
"Some of these films have really big grosses," he said. "Of the all-time top 100 films in Cornelius, a couple are Bollywood."
Perkins said he tried showing Spanish-language films but had surprisingly poor results.
"It seems to me that English-language films are popular with the Latino population," he said. "I haven't tried Latino films for a few years."
That's when Ravi Dangeti, a software engineer in Beaverton, proposed a new business venture, catering to a film category he felt was underrepresented in the Portland area. Dangeti, whose wife owns Mayura Indian Grill in Portland, said many customers asked about local Indian film screenings.
For having such a high Indian population, the Portland metro area doesn't have much culturally-relevant entertainment, said Dangeti, who immigrated with his wife and children from Hyderabad in South India 15 years ago.
Many Indians live in Washington County, which has the largest percentage of Asians in the tri-county area. But Dangeti said the only other movie theater he has found occasionally screening Indian films is in Clackamas.
Dangeti, 50, took up the opportunity as a hobby. He presented the idea to different cinemas around the area, and Perkins agreed to try it out.
"I was skeptical, but we've had decent success," Perkins said. "It's expensive, but I thought it was good to serve the community and bring something different."
Purchasing and shipping a digital movie disk from India can cost thousands. Dangeti said low-budget productions start at $1,000 per disk; top rated films with star casts are upwards of $25,000.
He said the biggest screening success in Cornelius was "Robot," a Tamil-language film featuring south India's super-celebrity Rajinikanth. Dangeti paid $60,000 for the 2010 film and priced adult tickets at $40 each. More than 1,000 people showed up, he said.
Cornelius Cinemas screens two to three Indian films per month in Hindi, the country's government-recognized official language, and the South Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Films are advertised via the Portland Indian Movies Facebook page, at Mayura Indian Grill, though an email listserv, and on Indian movie portals, such as Nowrunning.com. Tickets start at $12 for adults and vary based on the cost of the digital disk.
Dangeti said screening Indian films in Oregon is important both for cultural preservation and community support.
"I'm not making much money, but our major motivation is to show our culture so our children don't forget," he said.
Dangeti said his goal is to improve attendance at Indian screenings in Cornelius, as well as expand to other cities such as Seattle, where he occasionally screens big-budget films.
He used to occasionally screen films at a theater in Cedar Hills when Cornelius Cinemas was booked. Now he plans to show all films in Cornelius, since the theater's nine screens were recently converted to digital film.
The next screening in Cornelius is "Singam II," a large, Tamil-language production opening July 4. Dangeti said he doesn't yet know showtimes, but expects to screen it about five or six times.
(c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
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