Brazil president calls for cinema incentives

Movie theaters being bought by evangelist churches

BUENOS AIRES -- Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is trying to keep movies, not preachers, in the country's classic movie temples.

Lula has called for incentives that would keep theaters open rather than being sold to evangelist churches, the most common buyers of such venues.

"We need to prove that having a movie theater is better than selling the place to a church," Lula said at the recent launch of the Cinema, Close to You government program.

The sight of large cinemas turned into evangelist temples is common in Brazil and Argentina, but the arrival of such multinational multiplexes as Cinemark and Hoyts has hurt neighborhood cinemas. When not demolished, these stylish theaters have been saved from becoming parking lots thanks to their size: Some seat more than a thousand, about the number of people attending evangelist churches every weekend.

Evangelist organizations like the Iglesia del Reino de Dios have been the most common buyers of these venues.

The Cinema, Close to You program plans to use public funds to finance the construction of 600 theaters throughout the country, including the setting up of moviehouses in the 89 districts that have a population of fewer than 100,000 -- and no cinemas.
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