Theatres across Tamil Nadu have been shut for the fourth consecutive day to protest the dual taxes imposed on theatre owners. In an interview to Silverscreen, Abirami Ramanathan, president of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association, speaks about why they had to shut down, their talks with the government and the possibility of reopening theatres.
This shutdown must be a huge revenue loss for theatre owners…
Unfortunately, yes. We have lost more than Rs. 20 crore. But, shutting down screenings is cheaper than running movies after paying tax. We had shut down during Cyclone Vardha and during demonetisation, and we managed to make up our losses. We will eventually make good this loss too.
When are theatres likely to open? Are you positive about the talks with the Government?
We will shortly be called for one more meeting with the Ministers. Only after that will we know when movies will resume screening. We have requested the Government to completely lift the 30% local body tax imposed in addition to GST. But, that issue was not resolved in the first meeting.
Why is the Government taking this long to sort out the issue?
Only Tamil Nadu has a 30% local body tax. Going by our meetings, the ministers concerned are with us, but the officials are not. That’s all I can say now.
Did theatres close without prior notice? Last Friday’s releases got to run just one weekend.
Even if we had run the shows, it would have been a loss for the producers. In a Rs. 100 ticket, if 55% goes towards tax, apart from the share to distributors, theatre owners and exhibitors, a producer will get nothing. Once we start paying taxes, it is difficult to get out of it. As we were unable to pay the tax, we had to close down suddenly.
So, is it going to be an indefinite strike?
We can say that only after our next meeting with the Ministers.