Challenging Times for Movie Theatres in Andhra Pradesh

    • By, Trilok Kothapalli & Harsha Kavi – Student, Kautilya

The Govt. of Andhra Pradesh recently regulated the maximum price ceiling for movie tickets based on the geographical location of a theatre. The State government claims that movie tickets are being hiked exceptionally for high-budget films and the benefit shows. To curb this hike, the government intends to regulate and bring uniformity to the ticket prices and also increase access to theatres. Would this help achieve the state’s interest, and sustain the industry?

Tollywood is one of the largest film producers in India and the world, the industry has grown exponentially since the 20th century. Today, our cinema has grown to a whole new level where films like Baahubali have given us global recognition. The power of cinema is not just restricted to our borders, it influences the nation’s image by portraying our culture, diversity, and the art of the land.

Due to the recent regulations brought by the state, theatre owners contend they cannot operate at the government’s prices as they are abysmally low in some places, screening of benefit shows has been banned too. A total of 170 theatres have been closed down all across the state so far.

Too much regulation stifles the prosperity and growth of any industry. If the ticket prices were to be regulated, sustaining the business would get difficult. A movie is a commodity, like any other, for which there is a market, and there are interested buyers and sellers. Prices of goods/commodities must be regulated, provided they are essential. Movies, however, are not essential commodities. Only 30% to 35% of people in India have access to watching movies, and even lesser people watch them frequently in theatres. Fixing the price cap could limit the artistic freedom of filmmakers resulting in delivering subpar content to their audience.

Artistic freedom can be described as the extent of independence from any state or non-state actors to imagine and create. It is now one of the key facets of our democracy. Though movies are primarily commodities, movies also have an artistic value, and the state cannot determine that value. Just like one cannot add a price tag to M.F Hussain or Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings, cinema/movies are unparalleled. Each movie is unique; the industry must self-regulate itself according to the market’s demand & supply.

Increased regulations by the state directly affects high-budget films. Producers and filmmakers who go the extra mile to bring technological innovation to the industry and create something new will now step back. It might stop the evolution of Telugu cinema. When a film performs well in the market and makes profit, it is an incentive for the artists, filmmakers, and producers to work more and bring better movies in the future. Regulation increases the risk of returns and affects the artist’s quality of output. Fixing prices will lead to an increased black market of movie tickets. Eventually, the market will shift towards the OTT and will suppress the theatres to shut down.

The Indian film industry provides employment opportunities both directly and indirectly to more than two million people all across the country. If the government facilitates and makes it easier for movies to be produced and priced at the producers’ discretion, it can actually benefit the government to gain more net revenue. The government’s proposal of creating an online portal for booking movie tickets has the right spirit but the wrong way to go about it. They need to focus on creating a robust, transparent system where they know how many tickets are being sold and at what prices to tax accordingly.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.