'Taxing other language films will have an unintended domino effect'
Leading distributors and producers weigh in on the Local Body Entertainment Tax that has been levied
With multiple issues frequently sprouting at every nook and corner, it has been a rough patch for Tamil cinema industry over the past six months. The recent announcement that the Tamil Nadu Government will levy an entertainment tax of 10 per cent on Tamil movies and 20 per cent on films in other languages has just added fuel to the fire.
A leading distributor Tiruppur Subramanian says, “It’s not like the theatre business is flourishing. As it is the turnout at the theatres is low and, after introduction of earlier changes in the taxation structure, it has reduced by half.”
The TN Producers Council held a meeting with the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owner and Distribution on Wednesday. Tiruppur Subramaniam says, “We will not be able to pay the tax of 10 per cent as it’s not feasible. The theatre owners of Madurai, Kovai and Chengalpattu circles have decided that we have no option other than to temporarily close down theatres from October 18.”
He also tells us that studios like Sony, Warner Bros and others have decided not to screen and sell English and Hindi movies to theatres in Tamil Nadu. “If studios do not screen their films, then theatres cannot survive.
The decision to tax other language movies in Tamil Nadu will result in Tamil movies getting taxed when they get released outside Tamil Nadu,” he says, adding that when actors can talk about issues like the plight of farmers and NEET exam, they should also raise their voices for something that affects Tamil cinema which is their source of livelihood. “They could have raised this issue at the event held to inaugurate a memorial for Sivaji Ganesan. But instead, they chose to use the platform to talk about who should enter politics and for taking jibes at each other,” he said.
An official declaration from the TN Producers Council states, “With many pleas which were placed from our side still in the nascent stage, we think the order passed on September 27 levying an entertainment tax at the rate of 10 per cent will lead to further losses. On this front, with regards to the order passed in the meeting held on October 3, we have decided that from October 6, no new Tamil films will be released until our pleas for a regulatory ticket system are heard and Tamil films get full relief from entertainment tax.”
Vizhithiru is one film that was supposed to release this week, but director Meera Kathiravan is apprehensive about the situation. “I am part of a WhatsApp group in which Vidiyal Raju, who has got the theatrical rights of this film, posted that no films will be releasing this week. Personally, I haven’t heard anything,” he says.
However, the Dulquer Salmaan-starrer Solo is releasing on Thursday. Director Bejoy Nambiar posted on Twitter that the Tamil version was releasing as planned. There’s no information about the Malayalam version and when it will get released. A source close to Bejoy adds that “things are uncertain and there’s zero clarity over things.”
Dhananjayan states, “The current situation is such that no new movies will be released from October 6. But movies which already have been released before October 6 will continue to be screened. The movies which were released before October 6 will not see an increase in the ticket price and the producers will have to pay the tax out of their pockets. Only movies which are releasing after October 6 will see an increase in the ticket price. This will continue until Deepavali, and if the government does not have a solution by then, the theatres will close down. This decision was made because unlike the previous time, the theatres do not want to close down suddenly, and instead give some time for the movies already running”
A leading producer, who did not want to be named, says, “The GST system provides room for local and State governance tax to be levied. I don’t even want to get into the plight of producers who produce films with minimal resources. The irony is every other system which relies on the industry somehow survives. The ancillary services, publicity partners, promotional services are all able to make it.” On being asked whether there will be additional tax relief if an appropriate censor certificate is obtained, he says “Such a system is not efficient and only leads to corruption.”
Niklesh Surya, managing director of Rohini Theatre states, “We have asked for a ticketing system that is computerised. With a computerised ticket system in place, the whole process will be fair and transparent, wherein the records will reflect the true collections.”
(With additional inputs from S Subhakeerthana)