KOLKATA: With single screens and local multiplex chains reeling under the blow of COVID-19 for past one year, the Eastern India Motion Picture Association on Saturday urged West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to come out with a relief package for the “gasping” cinema halls.
EIMPA while sending a letter to the CM also sought an audience with her to apprise of the situation faced by the exhibitors while pledging its support to the fight against the pandemic by the state government.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for cinema hall owners to pay salary to its employees with the suspension of shows for several months since March 17 in 2020 and again since May 1 in 2021, EIMPA office-bearer Ratan Saha said, adding that “we have urged the government three year soft loan for working capital.”
In the letter the EIMPA sought three year “soft loans amounting from Rs 2 lakh to 5 lakh per cinema per screen multiplied by the number of months of inactivity.”
“Yearly operation cost per screen being Rs 15 lakh with one year moratorium for the same,” the letter claimed.
The monetary compensation was required for electricity charges, rent, dues accrued during period of closure and repair and maintenance to get cinemas back in running condition after shutdown, the apex body of distributors said.
“We also urge exemption of tax and duties for the theatres and providing financial help to the employees of the closed single screens as the owners are hard pressed in the present situation,” one of the owners of a cinema hall in Behala and head of a film distribution company Satadeep Saha said.
“Last year it was really bad as after seven months we could open the halls in Durga puja-Diwali period. However the old scenes never came back as audience turnout was very poor and there were no big banner releases. Finally it is back to square one as we closed shop from May 1 again. We are only staying afloat hoping for better days,” Saha said.
EIMPA sources said around 120 of the 250 single screen theatres were operational before May 1 restrictions were imposed.
The rest have closed shop, and some permanently.