The problems arising from COVID-induced disruption continue to plague the Kerala film industry. The theaters remain closed, although the state government has reopened with a cap of 50 percent.
The members of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) met in Kochi on Wednesday to decide on the reopening of the theaters in Kerala. And they have decided not to resume screening in the state until their demands are met by the government.
The association has asked the government for an aid package because the box office suffered a severe blow after the lockdown caused by the coronavirus. Even when neighboring states allowed theaters to resume operations since last October, the Kerala government did not allow it. Just last week, Prime Minister Pinarayi Vijayan allowed theaters and multiplexes to operate with certain restrictions.
While many thought this would bring applause to the ailing producers, exhibitors, and dealers, the government’s announcement only seems to have angered them. KFCC members are disappointed that the government has not given an aid package to support the film industry, which has suffered millions in losses.
The theater owners have urged the government to forego the fixed electricity costs that the cinemas incur during the lockdown period. And they have also called for full entertainment tax exemption.
Meanwhile there is also an internal conflict between producers and theater owners. According to TV reports, theater owners owe producers about 16 million rupees for films released before Covid. However, the exhibitors claim that the due date is no more than 4.25 rupees.
The theaters were hoping to make some profit by reopening next week with Vijay’s long-awaited Film Master. Stakeholders relied on Vijay’s large fan base to bring the crowd back to the state box office. It remains to be seen whether the theater owners will achieve a breakthrough in negotiations with the government and open screens to the master before January 13th.