Poorna Theatre – Vizag’s Vintage Movie Palace
What might come as a pleasant surprise to Vizagites is that the longest running movie theatre in entire South India is neither in Chennai, Hyderabad or Bangalore, but in Vizag. In fact, Sri Grandhi Venkata Ramaiah, the affable current owner of Poorna Theatre, has received a commendation letter, and memento to this effect from honourable Ms. Jayalalita, Tamilnadu CM, during the Indian Cinema Centenary celebrations that were held in Chennai.
About the movie theatre
The legendary Sri C. Pullayya has ceded his entire share to his business partner Sri Grandhi Kamaraju Mangaraju – a prosperous Merchant trading in rice-business on the East Coast, up to even the then Rangoon in Burma – to leave for Madras for his movie production/direction endeavors in 1927. It was then that the latter became the sole owner of ‘Sri Krishna Touring talkies’ that had been started by both of them in 1925. Later, in 1930, Sri GK Mangaraju built the full-fledged Poorna Theatre, immediately after the electrification facility was introduced in Vizag, on the main-road in current old-city. Initially, silent movies, prominent among them Bheeshma Pratijna, Nandanaar, Gajendra Moksham were screened.
Subsequently, when Talkie movie-era started, it started flourishing to a higher degree. His passion for movies did not merely stop at exhibiting them but went into financing/distribution too. In fact, it is enthralling to know that he was the main financier – to the tune of almost 90% – for the celebrated pioneer and South Indian movie mogul Sri HM Reddy when he made the first Telugu talkie movie ‘Bhakta Prahlada’ in the 30s. To that extent, Sri Manga Raju can be termed the invisible grand old-man of Telugu talkies. He subsequently established his own distribution company “Quality Pictures” in 1933 – which has been renamed as Poorna Pictures in 1945 – and distributed many movies too.
He modernized Poorna movie theatre from time to time. In 1949 when the balcony was added, the classic “Laila Majnu” was premiered in it. The occasion was held so grandly that the multi-talented Bhanumati came all the way from Madras and inaugurated the refurbished theatre. When the cinema-scope facility was installed in it in 1955, it became the first such movie theatre in the entire coastal Andhra region. “Force 10 from Navarone” of Hollywood was the one that was screened first after it was subsequently renovated in 1980. It was further upgraded and modernized in 1993 under its current owner Sri Ramaiah.
These days it is one of the few theatres in the city that screen only old classics; to the delight of connoisseurs of vintage cinema. We are certainly proud about this epic theatre and hope it keeps screening cinema for many more years to come.