Among the 66 items whose Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates were revised on Sunday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley included movie tickets too. While the GST on movie tickets priced under Rs 100 has been slashed to 18 per cent, as against 28 per cent proposed earlier, the tickets priced above Rs 100 will continue to attract 28 per cent GST, as proposed earlier. Though the GST rate has been revised for movie tickets priced under Rs 100, those associated with the industry feel that despite the rate being lessened, the GST, which will come into effect from July 1, will hit the Marathi industry hard.
Sadanand Mohol, president of Pune Exhibitors Association, that has 13 single screen theatres under its wings, “Given that so far there was no entertainment tax was charged for regional films, so any amount of entertainment tax will deter moviegoers from coming to theatre. The biggest impact of this will be on single-screen theatre owners who have been suffering losses from the past many years post the arrival of multiplexes.”
Mohol added the GST on movie tickets will also hit the Marathi film industry in a big way. The Marathi films, he says, have been struggling to find takers in the recent past and thus a rise in the price of movie tickets will further reduce the footfalls. “With this move, producers will think multiple times before investing in Marathi films. In rural areas, especially, theatre owners will suffer irrecoverable losses,” he said.
Prakash Chaphalkar, member of All India Multiplex Association and the owner of Mangala, a multiplex which was a single-screen theatre till a few years ago, said that considering there is no exemption for the regional films in GST, it is up to the state government now to take a call whether or not make any provision for the regional films in so that they don’t run into losses. “However, in the light of the present financial condition of the state, I don’t see it happening any sooner. The state has already suffered financially due to two recent moves – banning the restaurants (situated near highway) from serving liquor and the recent loan waiver to farmers,” he said.
Chaphalkar said that the 28 per cent GST may be beneficial for cities like Mumbai where entertainment tax charged was 40 to 45 per cent so far. “However, all in all, the GST rates will affect the film trade, including theatre owners, producers and, particularly, the regional film industry,” he said.
Filmmaker Sujay Sunil Dahake, who made National Award winning film Shala, says that after demonetisation, a dip in the number of Marathi film producers has been witnessed. The GST on movie tickets, he says, will only make the producers hesitant to invest in Marathi films. “The Marathi film audience was still trying to adjust to the switch from single-screen theatre to multiplexes in terms of the ticket price. This (GST) will only make the situation worse,” he says.
Meghraj Rajebhosale, president, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal (ABMCM), the apex Marathi film body, said that the stakeholders have had a meeting with the state government officials and have demanded a way out. If the matter is not resolved by July 1, before the implementation of GST, the film industry representatives will launch a strike. “With the introduction of GST, releasing a film and finding audience will get difficult for the filmmakers. Theatre owners will not be able to recover costs,” he said.