Bollywood movies a bright spot for U.S. cinema industry

Reporting from San Jose - It's 8 p.m. Friday and the historic Towne Theatre downtown is sold out. About 500 moviegoers have crowded into the three-screen movie house, paying up to $12 a ticket to watch not the latest Hollywood blockbuster but instead the premieres of three Indian movies that are opening simultaneously in India. 

Tonight's showcase feature: the Tamil action thriller "Aadhavan" starring hunk Surya Sivakumar, who enjoys rock-star status among fans known to break out in cheers when his image appears on screen.

As couples, parents pushing children in strollers and bands of young men stream into the 81-year-old theater, past the concession stand selling popcorn, mango juice and Indian fruit bread, an employee of the film's distributor is showing his gratitude. He hands out doughy sweets called laddu, wishing patrons a "Happy Diwali" in Tamil, a salutation of the Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil.

"If you go to the AMC theater, they don't play South Indian movies. This is our only option," said Sudhakar Desireddy, a software engineer for Cisco Systems Inc. and a Towne Theatre regular who sometimes attends showings twice a week. "There are so many Indians here. . . . The demand here is huge.

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