Andhra Pradesh

Cinema owners unable to run the show in N. Andhra region

Around 110 theatres in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam theatres stopped screening movies from March 24, ever since the lockdown came into effect.

Around 110 theatres in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam theatres stopped screening movies from March 24, ever since the lockdown came into effect.   | Photo Credit: ; - basheer

Relief sought from payment of electricity bills, property tax and GST

Cinemas in North Andhra have been thrust into an unprecedented financial crisis over the past three months, with many establishments even considering shutting down altogether due to lack of financial support.

Though the government had allowed relaxations for other sectors such as malls, hotels and restaurants, theatres were not allowed to open due to fears of crowding. Around 110 cinemas in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam stopped screening movies from March 24, ever since the lockdown came into effect.

“The lockdown has hit the theatre owners the hardest. As it is a very competitive market, theatre owners had invested large sums of money, in some cases up to ₹1 crore, to install the latest sound systems and digital equipment in order to offer viewers a grand experience. Many theatre owners had also given their establishments to others on lease. However, with the theatres remaining shut for over three months now, everyone is suffering huge losses,” said Perla Sambamurthy, owner of Kinnera Theatre Complex in Srikakulam and Kameswari Theatre Complex in Visakhapatnam.

“Theatre owners had decided to invest in renovating their facilities despite witnessing a dip in footfalls due to the emergence of over-the-top (OTT) platforms hoping that the ambience would draw audiences back. However, the COVID pandemic has changed our fortunes within three months,” Visakhapatnam Theatres’ Association president J. Madan said.

“The government should announce a special package for theatre staff as the owners are not in a position to pay wages due to the steep financial crisis,” Mr. Sambamurthy said.

Mr. Madan urged the government to waive fixed electricity charges which range from ₹40,000 to ₹70,000 per month. He has also sought exemption of property tax which amounts to around ₹2.5 lakh in cities. “All theatre owners used to pay huge taxes to government and municipal authorities. Now, the government should come to our rescue so that we will be financially stable to some extent,” he said while speaking to The Hindu over phone.

Vizianagaram Cine Exhibitors Association president and proprietor of NCS Theatre, Narayanam Srinivas, urged the government to slash GST on movie tickets. “Apart from 18% GST, other taxes are also collected. The reduction of taxes will certainly help exhibitors to run the show once permission is given to open cinema halls,” said Mr. Srinivas.

In fact, many theatres had closed down long ago and some of them were converted to shopping complexes and function halls. Old Ashoka Theatre has now become Naidu Function Hall in Vizianagaram. Minerva Theatre has turned into a massive shopping complex, while Balaji Theatre was demolished and a shopping complex constructed in its place a couple of years ago.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 8:08:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/cinema-owners-unable-to-run-the-show-in-n-andhra-region/article31935104.ece

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