On Friday, a few hours before the GST came into force, a pleading voice message from R. Kannan—a budding Kollywood director—did the rounds in WhatsApp. His message succinctly summarised the trauma that the filmmakers are currently undergoing.
Kannan's project Ivan Thanthiran, starring Gautham Karthik, despite opening to a positive reception, hit a major roadblock when the theatre owners' association in Tamil Nadu protested GST by cancelling screenings of all movies. At least 1,100 cinema halls in Chennai, and elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, downed curtains to express their ire against the 30 per cent local body tax and the newly imposed 28 per cent central GST. "This will be an additional burden. We are not against GST. But, we are already paying 30 per cent local tax to the state government. This means that we will end up paying almost 53 per cent of the ticket rate, which is not feasible,” said Abirami Ramanathan, president of Tamil Nadu Film Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier, before the GST rollout, the local taxes, in the name of entertainment taxes, stood at 15 per cent. But, on June 30, just a day before the much vaunted tax regime was implemented, the Tamil Nadu government announced a municipal tax of 30 per cent on cinema halls. This tax would jack up the prices; tickets costing Rs 230 would be pushed up to at least Rs 290. After GST, the ticket prices could touch a whopping Rs 320.
If GST alone was implemented, a 28 per cent tax would be levied on tickets costing Rs 100 or more. There would be an 18 per cent tax on tickets costing less than Rs 100.
The ongoing confusion has put the cinema lovers and filmmakers in a fix. Theatres have shut down indefinitely, causing a loss of at least Rs 100 crore to the industry.