Tamil Nadu theatres' shutdown enters day four; losses of Rs 5-7 crore reported daily

Sreedhar Pillai

Jul,06 2017 14:16 31 IST

It almost seems as through the curtains are coming down on the Tamil film industry. Since 3 July 2017, there has been a total shut down of the 1,127 screens across Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government's decision to impose a 30 percent local bodies' tax on cinema tickets in addition to the 18-28 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST), has put a question mark on the very survival of Kollywood. On the fourth day of the shutdown, the industry is losing between Rs 5-7 crore in revenue a day.

(Clockwise from above) Poster of Vikram Vedha; Spider-Man: Homecoming; Mom

(Clockwise from above) Poster of Vikram Vedha; Spider-Man: Homecoming; Mom

Tamil Nadu's 1,127 screens have a seating capacity of around 6.14 lakh, and tickets priced between Rs 50 (single screens) to Rs 120 (multiplexes). Since there is a cap on ticket prices, theatre owners makes more money from the sale of food and beverages from their concessions. Chennai malls presented a gloomy scenario, as footfalls have come down by more than 50 percent. The malls — with multiplexes as anchor tenants — drive footfalls into the shopping arcades, food courts and parking lots.

Meanwhile, stake holders like the Theatre Owners' Association, Tamil Film Producers' Council and Nadigar Sangam met the Chief Minister and other ministers. Abirami Ramanathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Cinema Theatre Owners' Federation said, “We are in talks with the government officials and ministers, and even had a meeting with the Chief Minister E Palanisamy. They had asked for some clarifications, which we have given. The issue may be sorted out by this evening (Thursday, 6 July), we are working towards it.”

The Tamil Nadu government is using its discretion as there is a clause in the GST Bill which allows local bodies to charge extra taxes. The neighbouring states of Andhra, Kerala and Karnataka, through a government order, have waived it. The Tamil film industry wants the Palanisamy government in the state to follow the example set by other states, but they are not willing to do it.

The exhibitors say that they are not against a common tax structure — one nation, one tax like GST — but they are opposed to two taxes, especially with the cap on ticket prices in Tamil Nadu. Archana Kalpathi, CEO of AGS Cinemas, the fastest growing multiplex in Chennai, said: “We welcome GST, but not the additional 30 percent local body taxes. Since we have a cap on ticket prices, we cannot pass it on to the audiences and it also reduces distributor and exhibitor share, which will sound the death knell of the industry.”

Superstar Rajinikanth, under pressure from his colleagues and fans, tweeted his support for the industry: “Keeping in mind the livelihood of lakhs of people in the Tamil film industry, I sincerely request the Tamil Nadu government to seriously consider our plea.” Kamal Haasan, who has been far more bold and daring with his statements on the issue, welcomed Rajinikanth’s tweet. Haasan tweeted: “Thanks Rajini avaragalay for voicing your concern. Let's request first, as gentlemen should. Then we shall see...”

The four Tamil releases due for this Friday (7 July) including the eagerly awaited Madhavan-Vijay Sethupathi cop versus don thriller Vikram Vedha have been postponed indefinitely. Now the biggies in other languages — Spider-Man: Homecoming and Sridevi’s Mom — will open if the theatre strike is withdrawn. The weekend advance booking has been stopped by all multiplexes. G Dhananjayan, the producer of Gautham Karthik-RJ Balaji's comedy entertainer Ivan Thanthiran, which opened well last Friday, has tweeted, "Hoping and praying that today the theatre strike shall get over and Ivan Thanthiran will be back in the theatres."