Indian exhibitors delay strike

Gov't promises resolution in 90 days

Cinema owners in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, the heart of the Bollywood film industry, have delayed a strike called to protest against a high entertainment tax on tickets, steep electricity costs and other municipal taxes.

The 1,000 or so exhibitors had planned to put up the “sorry, closed” signs from today (Friday) but decided to delay the action for three months after a meeting with the state’s leader.

“The chief minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, gave an assurance that his government would try to resolve our issues within 90 days,” said Nester D’Souza, president of Cinematograph Exhibitors Assn. of India.

Maharashtra charges a 60% entertainment tax, the highest in India where most states impose around 25%-30%. The strike would have hurt Bollywood because about 30% of its turnover comes in May and June, the peak holiday season.

“The chief minister had a very positive attitude,” said R V Vidhani of the Theater Owners’ Assn. “He has agreed that our demand of a reduction in entertainment tax from 60% to 30% was justified. He has also promised to look into the matter of Municipal taxes being charged on box office collections.”

Among the crop of pics set to bow Friday were Amitabh Bachchan’s hospital drama “Armaan” (Aspiration) and the long-held-up Raveena Tandon production “Stumped.”

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