Single-screen exhibs strike over taxes

Picket coincides with India's biggest holiday season

MUMBAI — Single-screen exhibitors in the Bollywood heartland of Mumbai and the western state of Maharashtra are going on strike today to protest high tax rates.

The strike coincides with Diwali, India’s biggest festival-holiday season and traditionally the time of year that Bollywood plans big releases.

The exhibs’ grievances include the high entertainment tax (60% of box office collections), property tax and government rules that prevent them from redeveloping properties.

The exhibs had planned to strike in May but were persuaded to wait by Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who wanted three months to come up with a bailout package for this sector.

But there has been no progress, and exhibs’ patience has worn out.

Plex complaint

“Multiplexes have been given a five-year tax break, lower electricity charges and a host of better facilities while we are being ignored,” Theater Owners’ Assn. prexy RV Vidhani said. “All this despite contributing $45 million to the state’s revenue last year alone.

“The government is willing to extend every facility to the multiplexes, which charge close to $2.60 for a ticket, which can be afforded only by the upper classes. So where should the masses go?”

Vidhani estimates the strike will cost the government approximately $657,000 per week and hopes that this lost revenue will compel it to act.

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