The thriving multiplex culture is giving a boost to the entertainment industry, but single screens are losing out. First, a higher entertainment tax (from 20 to 40%), and then, demonetisation — owners claim losses up to 60%.
EXPENSES UP, PROFIT DOWN
Vishal Choudhry, owner, Regal theatre wants to upgrade to a multiplex. “Losses are high, even more than 50%. I’m putting money from my own pocket to keep the theatre going. Producers hesitate to bring films to us because single screens don’t generate enough revenue. The government should give us incentive, permission to upgrade into a multiplex.”
“The downfall of single screens was already on with tax increase. Demonetisation has made it difficult for us to even pay electricity bills and salaries,” says Hanuman Sharma, manager, Golcha theatre.
GOVERNMENT CAN RESCUE
Film distributor Jogindar Mahajan says government intervention is needed, especially as piracy looms large on the industry. “Ticket prices need revision, and entertainment tax should be done away with. Big releases such as Dear Zindagi and Kahaani 2 cut down big time, when investing in single screen theatres,” he says. “Single screens have been facing difficulty for about five years. At least 2,000 screens have shut down because more multiplexes are set up from a producer’s point of view... New films are not going to the single screens,” says Rahul Puri, MD of filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s production house.
HAS BOLLYWOOD GOT THEIR BACK?
Single-screen theatres feel stranded, but film industry highlights their relevance at the box office. “Single screens are more important, as many people can’t afford high-priced tickets in multiplexes. Also, there’s an unmatched charm that resonates India’s movie-watching culture,” says director Ali Abbas Zafar. “Single screens are a crucial artery to reach out to the majority of cinema-goers that would come and watch our films. Multiplexes, however will not be affordable for the masses in near future,” adds producer Anubhav Sinha.
However, filmmakers Pritish Nandy and Hansal Mehta admit there’s an inclination towards multiplexes. “We occasionally make a movie for the ‘significant’ single-screen audience. To deny them importance would be sad,” says Nandy.
Mehta adds: “Frankly, single screens have not been receptive to my films. For too long, they’ve been programmed for blockbusters and big-ticket, star-driven films. They have to recondition themselves, and also upgrade in terms of sound and raising comfort level. Otherwise, they’ll eventually shut down.”