The Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association, the trade body that represents movie theaters in Tamil Nadu, requested the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to allow movie theatres in the state to operate at full capacity. On Monday, the association submitted a petition to the office of the Chief Minister, and later addressed the press to discuss their demands.
The demands from the association – whose members are struggling across the state due to low occupancy and uncertainties from Covid 19 – are to increase capacity and reduce regulation. Theatres were badly affected due to the stall in economy created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Theatres in Tamil Nadu were opened for public in November with a seat occupancy of 50%. Increasing the capacity will help theatre owners boost their economy.
Until November 9, theatres in Tamil Nadu were closed as Covid-19 cases were on the rise. As cases began to drop, the State government relaxed the restrictions, and allowed movie screens to operate at 50% capacity. With the Pongal season – traditionally an important period for Tamil movie releases – around the corner, the association is now asking for the restrictions to be relaxed further. The petition also asks for the government to eliminate a hike in taxes on tickets to help increase attendance in theaters, and for the Government to consider hosting events in cinena halls to encourage people to visit theatres.
The association also wanted looser regulations, asking for the the term of renewal of license for theatres to be increased from one year to three years, and to not have to seek permission from multiple departments for altering theatres. The petition read, “We would like to elicit permission from the Public Works department alone for the transformation of existing old theatres into smaller ones; and new theatres to bigger ones.” They also asked the Government to cancel an order on the old operator license system since projection of all movies are done digitally.
The exhibitors pointed to that the ‘Restart’ pandemic relief package to movie theatres provided by the Governments of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The Telangana government, on November 26, announced that relief measures will be given to the Telugu film industry, which was severely impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, to help them get on their feet. In the package, no GST is charged on movies that are made within a budget of 10 crore INR; electricity charges for theatres during the months of April, May and June have been waived, and zero-interest working capital loans of INR 10 lakh and INR 5 lakh have been introduced for theatre owners to help them get back on their feet. The Andhra Pradesh government too announced a similar package for theatres last week.
The exhibitors’ demands have come at a time when the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners’ Association, Tiruppur Subramaniam announced on Monday that Lokesh Kanagaraj‘s Master, starring Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi, Andrea Jeremiah and Malavika Mohanan, will be releasing in theatres on January 13, 2021.
There have been reports suggesting the actor Vijay met with CM Edappadi K Palaniswami on Sunday requesting him to permit cinema halls to function with 100% seating capacity. Speaking about the occupancy, Subramaniam had told Silverscreen India, “We cannot comment on the capacity we will be functioning at during Pongal since the lockdown rules for January have not yet been announced. It will depend on the announcement the government will make.”