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Officials who took bribes raiding theatres now!

Officials who took bribes raiding theatres now!

The seizure of many theatres by the revenue officials across all the districts of Andhra Pradesh in the last one week on the pretext of violation of the government rules, has led to a heartburn among the film exhibitors.

While some of the theatre managements have voluntarily closed down their cinema theatres stating that they would not be able to run with the low ticket rates fixed by the government and cannot withstand the harassment from the officials, some others were forced to close down by the officials on the ground that they have failed to renew their licences.

A film exhibitor who has around a dozen theatres in Rayalaseema and south coastal Andhra, admitted that the theatres have to renew their licences every year, but many of them have not renewed their licences for the last few years for various reasons.

“Yes, we are at fault. But even the officials have to be blamed for the same,” he said.

According to him, the revenue authorities, from top to bottom, are highly corrupt.

“They should inspect the theatres regularly to see whether they are complying with the guidelines or not. But they never do their job. They ask for bribes and keep away from periodical inspections. They don’t even insist on licence renewals regularly or serve notices, because they have corrupted the system. Since the theatre managements, too, are habituated to pay bribes to these officials, they have stopped bothering about renewing licences,” he said.

He reminded that he, and many other theatre owners, had applied for renewal of licences much before their expiry, but the revenue officials have been sitting over these applications for months on the pretext of Covid-19 pandemic.

“When we approached them three months ago, the officials talked rudely, saying they had other priorities. Do you think we have no other work than renewing theatre licences? they asked. Now, the same officials are raiding theatres and forcing them to close down,” the exhibitor alleged.

Another theatre owner said he had to pay Rs 10 lakh as bribe to a top revenue official in the district to get the licence for his newly-built theatre, after being forced to wait for three months.

“The bribing did not stop there. I had to pay Rs 3 lakh to his subordinate revenue official and another Rs 2 lakh to the lower-rung employees. Ironically, the same officials raided by theatre stating that I have not renewed my theatre licence,” he said.

He said in the past, the government used to fix the ticket prices in the theatres because theatre was the only source of entertainment for the people those days.

“Now, there are entertainment channels in televisions, there are OTT platforms and other sources. Unlike in the past when cinemas used to run for 100 days and several weeks in theatres, it is not possible to run the newly-released films even for a week or two and we have to make the maximum money during this period,” he said.

He said the average occupancy of a theatre throughout the year is not even 35 per cent.

“How can we manage the theatres for such low ticket prices?” he asked.

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Tags: Tollywood