Tamil Nadu

Dearth of screens belies scope for multiplexes in T.N.

Tamil Nadu has just 1.1 multiplex screens per million population, as against five or more in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana, a report by HSBC has revealed. While there is potential for more multiplexes in the State, industry players say regulatory hurdles pose a key challenge.

According to the report, Tamil Nadu has the potential for accommodating 152 additional screens in Tier-1 cities alone. Tamil films account for 15% of the movies produced in India and have an 18% share in box office revenue — second only to Hindi films.

“There is tremendous potential to accommodate more multiplexes in Tamil Nadu. The market is underserved and we can easily house 1,000 more screens in Tamil Nadu,” acknowledged Vishal, general secretary of the Nadigar Sangam and president of the Tamil Film Producers’ Council. However, he also pointed to the difficulties in getting clearances.

“We have requested the government to set up a single-window clearance mechanism. Some of our neighbouring States provide clearances in 15 days. If the single-window system is implemented, major players and investors would flock to Tamil Nadu to open screens,” Mr. Vishal said.

Abirami Ramanathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association, pointed out that there were a lot of single screens in prime locations, which were seeking to get converted into multiplexes. “However, State laws do not permit such conversion and that’s why you see single screens getting converted into real estate or marriage halls,” he explained.

Worrying trend

In its report, HSBC noted that single-screen cinemas in the country have been shutting up shop at a rapid rate, with their numbers falling to 6,000 in 2015 from 10,000 in 2009.

“If other States have five screens per million of population, Tamil Nadu, being a traditional cinema-loving State, should have double that number and [also] has the potential. We are also one of the biggest markets in the south for other-language films including Hollywood films (dubbed), in addition to Tamil films,” said Udeep B., managing director of Mayajaal.

According to the Multiplex Association of India, the country has amongst the fewest multiplex screens in the world, with less than two screens per million population, when compared to China (25), Europe (35-45), U.K. (65) and U.S. (125). It attributed the low screen penetration in India to high rates of taxation, onerous regulations and procedures and piracy issues.

In Tamil Nadu, the cap on cinema ticket prices is also seen as a hindrance to the growth of multiplexes. After the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), cinemas have been allowed to hike ticket prices, even as the industry is in talks with the government over the issue of levy of local body taxes over and above the GST.

Pricing hurdle

“The ticket rates had been capped for over 10 years while the overheads for running multiplexes had gone up year-on-year. Hence, the launching of new multiplexes by national and international chains did not happen enough in the last few years, and over the last decade, the cinema space was dominated by local players, who understood the nitty-gritty of navigating the local business landscape,” Mr. Udeep noted.

Now, with the correction in ticket prices and the government looking at possibilities for flexible ticketing and flexible shows, there will be a lot of traction and growth in the industry and larger chains would come to Tamil Nadu to set up shop at a much faster rate, he added.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 6:48:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dearth-of-screens-belies-scope-for-multiplexes-in-tn/article19340609.ece

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