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Maharashtra govt asks multiplex operators to allow outside food

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August 1 onwards moviegoers in Maharashtra will be allowed to carry their own food items inside cinema halls, a senior MLA of state assembly said. He also added that food items in the theatres will be sold at MRP from 1 August.

The decision sent shares of multiplex operators tumbling, with PVR Ltd and INOX Leisure Ltd diving as much as 14.1 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, on the broader NSE index that ended slightly lower. A senior executive of a multiplex said that the order will severely hit business.

During a state assembly meeting on Friday, 13 June, in Nagpur, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Maharashtra’s Minister of Information and Technology, Ravindra Chauhan, said that after August, moviegoers will be allowed to carry packaged food inside movie theatres.

The decision comes in the wake of pressure from Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), who in a series of protests sought an explanation for the exuberant prices charged for food at movie theatres.

Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, Dhananjay Munde, confirmed both the developments in a tweet.

The Maharashtra government on Friday announced that there would be no difference in the MRP of food products sold outside and inside multiplexes in the state and viewers will be free to carry their own eatables inside the multiplex.

This was announced in the legislative council by Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Ravindra Chavan. “The MRP parity for food items inside and outside the multiplexes would be effective from August 1 and the Home Department of the state government will formulate a policy to act against violators,” Chavhan said in response to a calling-attention motion tabled by Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde of the NCP.

The decision sent shares of multiplex operators tumbling, with PVR Ltd and INOX Leisure Ltd diving as much as 14.1 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, on the broader NSE index that ended slightly lower.

A senior executive of a multiplex said that the order will severely hit business. “With the new GST rates in place, about 30 per cent of the business for multiplex chains comes from sale of food and beverages,” he said.

Some police officials raised questions of security and the need for more intensive screening of customers to ensure that nothing illegal is slipped in. Said Deven Bharti, Mumbai joint commissioner of police (Law and order): “We have not received any such communication. Once received, we will examine it and communicate our view.”

Former IPS officer Y P Singh said there isn’t much for the police to do. “The malls and multiplexes have an elaborate security and they can ensure that no laws are broken.”

In a statement, the Multiplex Association of India said that “none of the multiplex cinema theatres operated by any of our members have received any order, notification or communication to this effect from the Government of Maharashtra or any other regulatory authority. Hence we are not aware of any decision to this effect, if taken by the Government”.

In an official statement, MAI also said a PIL on a similar issue has been filed in the Bombay High Court in which it has been joined in as a party.

“Since the matter is currently sub judice, and since we have no other formal communication from any regulatory authority, we would not like to comment any further on the matter,” said Deepak Asher, president of the association.

This new announcement, however, may lead to an increase in the price of movie tickets.