The film theatres are likely to open by January 13, the day Tamil star Vijay’s ‘Master’ is releasing.

A theatre lit in red with very few people insideImage for representation
Flix Films Monday, January 04, 2021 - 20:10

Most film theatres in Kerala will not be opening on January 5, even though the state government had given the nod three days ago. Several concerns of theatre owners, film producers and distributors are not yet addressed, and they say they need more clarity from the government before opening the theatres to the public. The theatres are likely to open by January 13, the day Tamil star Vijay’s film Master is releasing.

Associations of theatre owners, film producers and distributors are meeting on January 6, to discuss the various demands and raise it with the government. On January 1 when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that theatres in the state may open on Tuesday with 50% occupancy, certain concerns raised by the various film organisations were not addressed.

Read: Theatres to reopen in Kerala, but big-budget films to release only after March

“Theatres have been closed in Kerala for ten months (since March 10, to contain the spread of COVID-19). The electricity charges follow a fixed tariff slab and theatres have been charged an average of Rs 45,000 or more every month, all this time. In some theatres, electricity was disconnected following delayed payments. Several representations have been addressed to the government regarding this, but there has not been a reply yet,” says Gireesh, owner of Sree Padmanabha Theatre complex in Thiruvananthapuram.

Apart from the electricity charges, theatre owners would also want the government to waive the entertainment tax, which has been collected in Kerala, in addition to the GST (Goods and Services Tax), since mid 2019.

“In addition, there is the annual tax that theatres pay the corporation, KSFDC (Kerala State Film Development Corporation) and the Chalachithra Academy. It’s been paid for the past year. So we are hoping that it will be tax-free for the next year,” Gireesh says.

Renjith M, president of the Kerala Film Producers Association, says that the condition of 50% occupancy brings a lot of concern to producers. “The first three to four days after a movie release are crucial in determining the returns it will make. Now if the seats are limited to 50% of the total capacity, it would affect the first week’s collection. There is also the question of how many people will turn up when theatres open. One has to remember that many of these producers had waited for a year to release their films and it will be really bad if they end up as flops because of these restrictions.”

The association had earlier met CM Pinarayi but it was prior to the local body elections and the government was tied up by the code of conduct, unable to decide on new grants or the like. “But now when the CM made the announcement about opening theatres, none of our concerns were addressed. The government has brought out so many packages to help out various sections of people. I hope they will consider the people in the film industry as well,” Renjith adds.

On the same day that the CM spoke about theatre-opening, Malayalam star Mohanlal had posted the news of his film Drishyam 2 releasing online, on Amazon Prime. The news has not been received well in all quarters. Liberty Basheer, Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation, has been very vocal about his displeasure. The federation will also be part of the meeting on January 6. He confirms that they too have the same demands – waiving off of electricity charges on theatres for the months they were closed, waiving off of municipal taxes and entertainment tax. “The 50% occupancy is a measure suggested by the Union government, but no producer will give us movies with that condition. We are going to raise the demands and once we reach an understanding, open the theatres on January 13, with the release of Master,” he says.

Read: Mohanlal faces criticism for 'Drishyam 2' OTT release, much like Kamal did years ago

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