No decision in Kerala on opening cinema theatres

Kochi: Although the central government has given the permission to open cinema theatres that have been closed for seven months due to the Covid lockdown, there is no decision in Kerala on when they will be allowed to resume operations.

Theatres have been closed since March 11. Owners are worried not only about the possibility of incurring losses if they open theatres with the 50% seating restrictions mentioned in the Covid guidelines of the Centre, but also about the additional obligations they will have to meet, such as entertainment tax.

The government has not yet responded to the demand of the film industry  to withdraw the entertainment tax imposed by the state, which is over and above the GST.

The Kerala Film Chamber, a consortium of producers, distributors and theatre owners, made a similar request to the Chief Minister again on Thursday.

The Chamber had submitted a petition to the Chief Minister on May 6 asking for a package to help the industry overcome the COVID crisis, but no action was taken.

Among the demands the Chamber has submitted to the Chief Minister are reduction of electricity fixed charges and exemption from entertainment tax.

The central government has given permission for theatres to open from October 15 by following the restrictions given in the guidelines to fight COVID.

Theatres will, therefore, may have to reduce the number of seats to ensure social distancing. However, this will not mean their operating cost will reduce.

Ticket prices will also go up due to the entertainment tax. In effect, the concern is that it will not be profitable to open theatres without at least the entertainment tax being removed.

The Film Producers' Association has stated that new films will not be released till the entertainment tax is not withdrawn.

Meanwhile, Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), an organisation of theatre owners, will hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the future course of action.

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