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Bombay HC hasn’t passed judgement allowing outside food in theatres: Multiplex Association

Prakash Chapal, secretary of the association, instead wants the government of Maharashtra to pass a law that will prohibit people from bringing outside food in cinema halls, for security reasons.

Photo used for representational purpose only (Shutterbugs Images)

Keyur Seta

Last month, quite a few publications and news channels ran reports claiming the Bombay high court has allowed patrons to bring outside food in multiplexes. It was also reported that the prices of snacks at cinema halls are likely to go down.

However, the Multiplex Association of India has clarified that no such judgement has come from the court. “Actually there hasn’t been any decision yet. The matter is still in court. The PIL was about allowing outside foodstuffs inside the auditorium and the management not being allowed to vend foodstuffs inside the auditorium,” secretary of the association, Prakash Chapal, informed us.

Commenting on reports claiming that the price of food items will be reduced, he said, “The honourable judge just passed a general remark that Rs5 popcorn is sold at Rs250 during the proceedings, which is blown up by the media. The media didn’t mention whether it was an order or just a general remark. Now, people are thinking that it’s an order by the court.”

This misconception even led to protests by a political party in a Pune multiplex last week where a staffer was slapped. “The [political] party is trying to take mileage from the issue and they are known for doing that. We don’t give any importance to them. There are people and parties who have no social acceptance. They just want publicity and for them adverse publicity is also publicity,” Chapal said.

The association's secretary believes that the government of Maharashtra should pass a law which prohibits people from bringing outside food for security reasons. “In Delhi and some other states it is prohibited to carry outside food inside due to security reasons. Maharashtra has somehow missed out on that issue. If it is security concern in one state, it is not understood why it can’t be in any other state. The government of Maharashtra should pass such a law,” he added.

When it was pointed that the prices of food items and beverages is very high at the multiplexes, he said, “But we are not forcing anybody to buy. Secondly, the pricing is my constitutional right. Whether to buy or not is their [patrons] right.”

However, since outside food is not allowed, patrons are forced to buy the high priced snacks from the multiplexes when they get hungry. Chapal tried to justify this saying theatre owners are forced to provide a restaurant-like service in the multiplexes.

“Basically our prices are not high as compared to a big restaurant that sells samosas at Rs140. But we charge around Rs100. More importantly, it was obligatory under the multiplex policy for us to have a restaurant inside a cinema hall. So, I am not only a cinema operator but a restaurateur as well. We are just fulfilling the condition. And it is possibe to control your hunger for a duration of just two hours,” he pointed.

“We also suffer wastage. We supply samosas till the last show at night. And we are forced to throw away the remaining ones. Plus, we have English speaking staff, whom we need to pay well. So, all these costs add up,” he explained.

The PIL was filed by Jainendra Baxi, who is also a filmmaker. Chapal believes his intention was to gain publicity. “He is a flop filmmaker who just wants publicity. And his lawyer brings media along with him,” he said.

The next hearing of the PIL will be held on 25 July.