Exhibitors willing to reopen theatres, but only with govt aid

Though the state govt is against reopening cinema halls, exhibitors are willing to take the risk, but demand tax exemption
Exhibitors willing to reopen theatres, but only with govt aid

KOCHI:  It’s been over six months since theatres in Kerala shut doors leaving movie buffs in dismay. The pandemic outbreak which wrecked the economy, dealt the film industry its biggest blow yet but it was the exhibitors who took most of the beating. While earnings plummeted, expenses mounted as equipment worth crores had to be kept running every second day to avoid future technical glitches.

Amid what seemed like a never-ending clouded gloom, the Central government’s decision to allow reopening of theatres with 50 per cent occupancy has come as a silver lining for exhibitors. Though the state government has decided to maintain a status quo on the directive, thereby keeping the theatre shut, the exhibitors say they are ready to start operations provided the government comes to their aid. 

According to M C Bobby, general secretary, Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), the exhibitors are willing to resume operations despite the huge cost the move would incur. “We have been waiting for the directive. Now that the state government has decided not to reopen theatres due to safety reasons, we will approach authorities seeking sops. We need exemptions from entertainment and building tax. The authorities should also take steps to waive the fixed electricity charges, which come to anywhere between `60,000 and `85,000 every month,” said Bobby. 

At present, every exhibitor is suffering a loss of at least Rs 3 lakh per month. To overcome the crisis, the organisation has decided to ask the government for a relief package. “Unlike other sectors in the film industry, we have extra expenses even with no earnings. Almost all cinema halls in the state were renovated recently which cost theatre owners a substantial sum. The EMI for the loans taken for renovations itself accounts for a huge expense every month,” said Bobby.

To address the current situation, FEUOK has decided to conduct a meeting on Friday after which a memorandum will be submitted to the state government. While the crisis remains, apprehensions are being raised over the availability of content once theatres reopen. The exhibitors opine that movie releases will only happen when the producers are assured of audiences coming to theatres. However, sources within the industry expect theatres to open only during the Christmas season.

210single screen theatres across the state 

Rs 3Lis the average loss per month for an exhibitior post Covid shutdown

‘Content not an issue’

The producers have already kickstarted production works. A few big-budget flicks have already gone on the floors while a few others are set to start this week. We are taking all the extra effort to ensure that once the cinema halls open, there is no dearth of content. What we expect is to release movies by December to a 50 per cent occupancy and to achieve 100 per cent occupancy by March.- B Unnikrishnan, general secretary, Film Employees’ Federation of Kerala

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