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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Indian cinemas are Millionaire losers
Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan's quiz has caused a sensation
The Indian version of British TV hit Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is being blamed for a slump in box office returns at the country's cinemas.

Kaun Banega Crorepati? - Who Will Become A Millionaire? - has been a huge success for the Star TV satellite network since it launched on 3 July.

Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan - who drew millions to Indian cinemas in the 1970s and 1980s - hosts the show, which is aired four nights a week.

It sees contestants try to win 10 million rupees (150,000), by answering a series of questions - although the biggest prize handed out so far was five million rupees (75,000) given to a cloth maker from Calcutta last week.

Cinema owners feel Bachchan is keeping people out of the picture houses - just as he whipped up custom for them in the 1970s and 1980s.

'Magnetic personality'

Theatre Owners' Association president Udharam Thadani said he had asked Bachchan's actor son Abhishek to try and persuade his father to change the show's time.

If things continue the way they are, we will be almost finished - a lot of people just watch the show to be able to see Bachchan perform

Udharam Thadani, Indian cinema owners' association
"There is a significant dip in collections on the days the show is aired. The 6pm and 9pm shows are the worst hit," he moaned.

"If things continue the way they are, our trade will be almost finished. Amitabh Bachchan has such a magnetic, compelling personality. A lot of people just watch the show to be able to see him perform.

"Nobody is interested in coming to the theatres when the game show is on."

'Crackerjack of a show'

Mr Thadani said the show could be broadcast in the morning, or at 2200 instead of the present time of 2100.

Other TV networks are also suffering as a result of Millionaire's success, with rival Zee TV hitting back by offering a 100 million rupee (1.5m) prize with its new, as-yet-untitled quiz.

Zee declined to offer details of the programme, but a statement said: "This crackerjack of a show provides the participants and viewers the thrill of the chase and the excitement of a lifetime."

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? made its debut in the UK in September 1998, and since then has become a hit around the world, with local versions also showing in the US, Russia, Japan, South Africa, Israel, Australia and across Europe.

See also:

30 Aug 00 | South Asia
India's battle of the airwaves
11 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bachchan: India's comeback kid
19 Apr 00 | South Asia
Bollywood star lands Millionaire show
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