The capping of movie ticket prices by the Andhra Pradesh government in April 2021 has ruffled the Telugu film industry and various cinema personalities have spoken out against it.
The most recent of these was actor Nani, who expressed his displeasure over the limitation imposed on cinema hall prices during the press meet of Shyam Singha Roy. Speaking at the event in Hyderabad on Thursday, Nani said, “What is happening is not right and everyone knows that. Even today, somewhere, I heard that the ticket rates are Rs 10, Rs 15, Rs 20. If a kirana store beside a theatre gets more collection than the latter, it does not make sense and it is not logical.”
Silverscreen India brings you this explainer of the ongoing issue from its inception to more recent developments.
GO capping ticket prices:
In April, the Andhra Pradesh government issued a notice regarding the maximum rates that can be charged at both multiplexes and single-screen theatres. The rates vary from Rs 30-250 depending on the type of theatre and class of ticket. While the order permits the management to charge less than the maximum rate after informing the authorities concerned, any violation of the rate ceiling was liable to face action from the License Authority. This will include a show-cause notice and a personal hearing ahead of a penal consequence, the notice stated.
During the same month, Nani’s film Tuck Jagadish, which was scheduled to hit theatres on April 23, was postponed and subsequently announced as a direct-OTT release. While surging Covid-19 cases was one reason, another main cause for the film opting to premiere on Amazon Prime Video was the cap on ticket prices.
AP Government announces online ticketing system:
On August 31, the government ordered the setting up of an eight-member committee under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary (Home) to design and implement an online ticketing system for movie theatres similar to the railway ticket booking portal IRCTC. Among the stated objectives were prevention of tax evasion and monitoring of cinema ticket prices. Prominent members of the Telugu film industry such as producers Dil Raju and C Kalyan, and studio owner G Adiseshagiri Rao met with Minister Perni Venkataramaiah and expressed support for the plan.
However, the move was met with sharp criticism from actor-politician Pawan Kalyan. In September, the actor lashed out at Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led AP government for not supporting the film industry that is reeling under the pandemic. Noting that there are over one lakh people dependent on the film industry, which also has some of the highest taxpayers in the state, he said they should not be bullied by the government.
While actors Nani and Karthikeya expressed their support of Kalyan’s statements, the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce chose to distance itself from them. The TFCC issued a statement observing that the chief ministers of both AP and Telangana had been “proactive” and extended “encouragement and support” to them. Following this, producers such as Dil Raju, Sunil Narang, Bunny Vasu, and Naveen Yerneni met Perni and discussed issues pertaining to the film industry in a closed-door meeting.
Towards the end of November, the AP government passed a bill forbidding over-the-counter sale of movie tickets, making it mandatory to sell them only through the State-run online booking platform. This made Andhra Pradesh the first state in India to do so. With the new system, tickets can be booked for any theatre by making a call, sending an SMS, or using the platform directly. The bill also forbid theatres from running more than four shows per day.
In December, the government released GO 142 handing over the responsibility of selling tickets through the online portal to the Andhra Pradesh Film Development Corporation. This new online system is expected to be made available soon.
Concerns from the film fraternity:
In November, ahead of a big line of Telugu releases, DVV Entertainment, producers of the upcoming pan-Indian film RRR, expressed their concerns over the “slashing of ticket prices” and how it would affect their film. While local media reports stated that they were planning to go to court “to get permission to release the film with higher ticket prices,” the production house clarified that they did not intend to take the legal route but would approach the state’s chief minister to talk about the issue.
Soon after this, actor Chiranjeevi questioned the slashing of ticket prices and mentioned that he had attempted to meet with officials to discuss the issue but his efforts went in vain.
A state of contrast:
In contrast to AP government’s capping of cinema hall charges, the neighbouring state of Telangana recently passed a government order increasing the maximum rates that can be levied in theatres. In its order on Saturday, Telangana increased the ticket price ceiling to between Rs 50 to Rs 300, based on the type of theatre and class of seating.
This came after the Telangana High Court passed an interim order in early December allowing theatres to increase the ticket prices for certain films like RRR, Bheemla Nayak, Pushpa, Akhanda, and Radhe Shyam.
Speaking of the new GO, Anupam Reddy, secretary of Telangana Film Chamber of Commerce, told Silverscreen India, “This is required because the last GO permitting an increase of rates was given in 2013. We’ve been pleading with the government to increase prices for the past 3-4 years and they have finally obliged now.”
Actors like Chiranjeevi and Vijay Deverakonda welcomed the move and extended their thanks to the Telangana government.
The legal route:
Some theatre owners in AP have chosen to approach the courts to sort out the issue of price capping. A petition was filed by the theatre owners with the Andhra Pradesh High Court, challenging the government’s April order.
In December, the High Court suspended the state government’s order after a theatre owners argued that the government intervening in the ticket prices was not “appropriate” and that it should be up to the theatre owners to decide the rates. The court order meant theatres would be at liberty to sell tickets at the old rates.
However, the AP government filed a lunch motion petition asking for a stay on the order. When this petition came up for hearing, the court ordered cinema hall owners to present a proposal for ticket prices before the joint collector, who would later take a decision on the same in consultation with a committee that would be set up for the purpose.
The court further clarified that the orders passed by it regarding the relaxation in pricing of tickets would be applicable across the state, and not only to those theatre owners who filed petition.
Meanwhile, a number of theatres in AP have reportedly shut due to losses incurred by the low ticket prices. A source told Silverscreen India that approximately 170 theatres in AP have already closed their shutters for this reason.
In view of this, a committee of producers and exhibitors are preparing to meet government officials to discuss the issue and come up with solutions. On Monday, producer Dil Raju, in a press meet, said, “To discuss and resolve the issue related to ticket prices and ongoing raids (on theatres violating the rules), the film fraternity is preparing to meet Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, other ministers and representatives, when we get appointments. We hope that the AP government will also issue an order on the ticket prices similar to what the Telangana government did.”