Single Screens Demand Separate SOPs

By Pickle  July 28, 2020

Over two dozen theatre owners representing single screen theatres in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka and Kerala participated in a recent virtual meeting organised by South Indian Film Chambers of Commerce

With the government (I&B Ministry and Home Ministry) working on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the reopening of cinema halls, which remain shut due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown, owners of single screen theatres have urged for separate SOPs, compared to multiplexes. Over two dozen theatre owners representing single screen theatres in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka and Kerala participated in a recent virtual meeting organised by South Indian Film Chambers of Commerce.

Majority of them, who are GST payers, have complained that banks are not lending to them under the Central government’s scheme for the MSMEs. According to them, single screen theatres are not to be treated on par with multiplex theatres. Both work on two different sets of guidelines, concessions, rules, strategies, policies and enterprises.

They said renewal for theatre licence must be worked on auto renewal mode for an additional year and there shuld not be separate additional fees or procedure other than an online request Theatre owners said property tax should be reduced by 50 per cent. There are existing property tax rebates in Andhra Pradesh which have to be given in all states in India.

“Electricity charges will be paid only on the consumption and not on minimum due, irrespective of high tension, low tension or commercial establishments category,” they said and added that the Licenced projector operators mandatory clause has to be removed as it is only digital projection these days and that is a draconian law which has to be modified. Local Body Tax is to be exempted in states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, theatre owners urged the government.

“Clarification that theatres operate in the gambit of MSME sector and all concessions given to MSME sector (loans criteria, concessional interest, interest wavier during moratorium period) must be given the exhibition sector.”

According to theatre owners, harsh enforcement conditions should not be imposed during opening of theatres post covid scenario. Theatre staff and workers should be included under cinema workers scheme and some necessary support should be given to them, they said and added that GST tariff has to be put under a reduced tax slab from the existing 18 to 12 and 12 to 8 per cent.

“Theatre construction rules should be simplified and ease in conversion needs to be given from one big screen to two small screens. Ease the setbacks condition, rules, application and sanctioning formalities”.

It has been decided to send letters recommending the above to Central and State governments by e-mail, post. It has also been decided to directly meet the Chief Ministers concerned representing the issues and concerns in person with a team of prominent exhibitors form each State.

“Cash flow is the need of the hour as working capital for single screens. Banks should be advised to lend under MSME scheme equivalent to 3 to 6 months of  fixed costs which could be the hard costs of rentals; electricity; wage bill. These could be easily established by a self-declaration with the auditor’s confirmation.” theatre owners said. They also wanted the proposed increase in electricity tariff to be deferred.

“The above mentioned recommendations and requests are critical for the survival of the single screens in India,” owners felt. Out of 9500 screens in the country, 3500 are multplex screens and South India has many single screen theatres, which are part and parcel of not just the Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada film industries, but also an integral part of the lives of people for whom cinema is like a religion.

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