In what comes as a huge relief for standalone theatre owners in Telangana, on Tuesday, the state government passed an order permitting standalone cinema theatres to collect parking fees for vehicles parked in their premises.
The order, which comes into force with immediate effect, said that it had come to the notice of the government that several vehicles belonging to non-cinemagoers were being parked at standalone cinema theatres. Therefore, the government had decided to permit the owners of these theatres to collect parking fees from those who park vehicles in their premises, the order added.
However, instructions regarding no parking fees at multiplexes and theatres located in commercial complexes continue as before.
With theatres in Telangana looking to reopen by July 30, Silverscreen India spoke to owners of standalone theatres to understand how the new order would be part of their revival process.
Akshita Reddy, who runs Ranga 70mm single screen theatre in Hyderabad along with her father Gopal Reddy, opines that with the collection of parking fees allowed again, this revenue can be used for improving the sanitation facilities when theatres reopen. “During these pandemic times, when special care has to be taken with respect to sanitation at the premises, the parking fees collected would be helpful as additional income to bear those expenses,” she says.
She adds that the order comes as a relief for theatre owners who can now also spend the income in improving their parking spaces and help keep the premises safe.
Anupam Reddy, owner of Hyderabad’s Sudha Theatres (a standalone with five screens), also welcomes the decision. “Collecting parking fees is not a new thing. But suddenly in 2018, the government made it mandatory not to collect parking fees. When it comes to theatres, there are three types of income: tickets, canteen, and parking,” he explains. “Ticket income is shared between the theatre owner, distributor, and producer, and our share is very less as compared to them. With parking income gone, we were left with only canteen income. We need about 10 people a day to manage the parking and this amounts to Rs 1 lakh in salaries. So, this is a good move.”
Balgovind Raj Tadla, partner at Sudharshan 35mm and Devi 70mm single screen theatres in Hyderabad, concurs. “Parking fee has been a major chunk of our revenue since the 70s and 80s. That balance was lost in 2018 and our income dipped,” he says.
Tadla also notes that with the digitization of film, distributors have the scope to reach a wider number of screens, which cuts down each film’s run at the theatres and causes the revenue to be divided among more theatres than before. “With the number of days each film runs in theatres shortened, our dependency on parking revenue increased.”
Earlier this month, members of the Telangana State Film Chamber of Commerce (TSFCC) had met with the Chief Secretary of the state with a request for a series of relief measures for exhibitors, including permitting the collection of parking fees and waiving electricity charges. Anupam Reddy, who was part of the meeting, said that the government is considering their other requests as well.
Meanwhile, with Telugu films such as Thimmarusu and Ishq set to release on July 30, theatre owners are planning to reopen their establishments by the end of the month and hope to see a revival post the second wave of Covid-19.