Come March 25 and all the 2000 single screen theatres across Maharashtra will shut down for a week. The token strike is to protest against the entertainment tax (ET) levied by the state.
According to Manoj Desai, Executive Director, Maratha Mandir and Gaeity-Galaxy theatres, most states have relieved single screens from the tax except Maharashtra. He says, “Rajasthan has abolished ET, Madhya Pradesh charges only 20 per cent. We’re the highest at 45 per cent.” Since the multiplex era started in the early 2000s, single screens have seen a decline in sales and popularity. Salman Khan’s Wanted saw a reversal of fortune, but the joy was short-lived. “Around 350-400 theatres have shut down and many others are on the verge,” says R V Vidhani, president of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India.He adds that despite many reminders, the state government hasn’t responded. "As if the 45 per cent tax is not enough, we also have to shell out 15-20 per cent in indirect taxes," says Vidhani, stressing that their demand is to be treated at par with theatres in other states. Another problem faced by the single screens is the inability to exit from the business. "Even if someone doesn’t want to continue, he doesn’t have the freedom to venture into another business. Many theatres are being used as godowns, causing losses to not only the owners, but also the government," he states.
After the token strike, the association members will meet up to review the government’s response. Desai asserts that their strike could show the powers that be the way to future revival. Vidhani insists that if their pleas remain unheard, they will go on an indefinite strike next time.