Is the government trying to rein in errant multiplexes?

  • Surendra P Gangan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 09, 2015 00:42 IST

With the state government drawing flak for its plan to make it compulsory for multiplex owners to screen at least one show with a Marathi film between 12pm and 9pm daily, state officials said on Wednesday there was another side to the story.

They said that multiplex owners, for years, enjoyed the benefit of various sops offered under the multiplex policy formulated in 2001. This included a 100% waiver of entertainment duty (which is charged at 45% of the ticket price in Mumbai and other major cities) for the first three years, and 75% waiver of the same for the next two years. Besides, the government also gave multiplexes more floor space index (FSI). In exchange for these benefits, they were asked to screen Marathi movies – among other things – but have been violating these conditions with impunity, said officials.

“Some of them didn’t screen Marathi films. When the government intervened, they started screening them, but at 9am or 10am slots. While took the benefits offered under the policy, they found ways to avoid screening Marathi films during prime time. We even offered more incentives to them in 2013, to show Marathi films at prime time,” said a senior revenue official, requesting anonymity.

“The compulsion of 112 shows a year is part of the policy devised to promote multiplexes in the state. The 52 multiplexes which came up under the policy enjoyed the tax holidays and additional FSI. In lieu of the benefits, the multiplexes were expected to comply with certain conditions, including screening of Marathi films, reservation of a theatre for experimental plays and providing some space for art galleries,” said a home department official.

“Multiplexes with three screens – which is the minimum number of theatres in any multiplex – screen about 4,800 shows a year, and if we are expecting 112 shows at prime time, there is nothing wrong with it,” the official said.

The representative of a management body at a suburban multiplex said, “We did take the tax concessions, but the costs involved in building and operating multiplexes are huge. We have limited prime time and it won’t be a good business move to screen movies in that period if they are not giving us good revenue.” Vishal Anand, head of operations, Fun Cinemas, said, “The subsidy given to us is spent on air-conditioning in the premises and better infrastructure. We will have to see how the numbers work out now.”
(With inputs from Shalvi Mangaokar)

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