Film industry flays Centre's move; shoots suspended

Cinema halls across the city and suburbs remained closed on Thursday against the Central government's move to levy service tax of 10.3 per cent on the film industry. The day also saw the suspension of work relating to film shoots and distribution. Various associations said the move would only cause further harm to the industry, which is already struggling.

Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners' Federation president Abhirami Ramanathan said: “The proposal is to impose 10.3 per cent each on producers, distributors and theatres. This means, if a film were to be sold for Rs.10 crore, a sum of Rs.3.10 crore would be service tax. It is not a protest… but only a means to voice our grievance to the government. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have 1,400 screens of which Chennai has 120. All have remained shut today. The combined loss in terms of theatre collection for a single day would be Rs.4 crore.”

Among the total screens in the State and Puducherry, around 250-300 release new films and the rest only run them thereafter. At present, 15 recent releases are being screened in these theatres. In the remaining, around 200 films including those that are at least three or four years old are being screened.

Tamil Film Producers Council Secretary P.L. Thenappan said: “It would not be possible for us to deduct the amount from artists or technicians. The Central government thinks that all films make whopping profits. Only select productions can make collections in crores in a matter of few days.”

Film producer Mukta Srinivasan said the industry worked on the basis of an assumption that the stories, films and actors would be a hit. But if turns out to be a flop, the producer would have to bear the brunt. “We cannot pass on the loss to theatre-goers as ticket rates are fixed by the State government. There are theatres that cancel the night show if there are very less number of patrons,” he said.

R.Sarath Kumar, president, Nadigar Sangam, said: “For an industry that is already struggling, this tax would be detrimental. We pay income tax and entertainment tax. The government have exempted certain industries from service tax. They should extend the same to the film industry.”

Though many movie-goers knew that theatres would be closed on Thursday, there were some like J. Dinesh, a pastry chef, who went to a theatre in Adyar to watch “Kaadal Sodhappuvadu Eppadi” but had to return disappointed. “I can now watch the film only on my next weekly off,” he said.

In most theatres, film buffs were seen booking tickets for later shows. For those who had tickets for Thursday's shows, theatres either refunded or issued tickets for other dates.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012