A couple of associations of exhibitors of Maharashtra are in talks with the Maharashtra government to change the rule which requires that a new cinema should be built in place of an existing cinema if the owner wants a change of user of the land. Earlier, the property owner was allowed to change user of the land on which a cinema stood, if he constructed another cinema of at least 30% of the original cinema’s capacity. The rest of the land could be used for any other purpose or business. The rule of 30% capacity cinema has been further changed. Although the property owner even now needs to build a cinema in place of the old cinema, that cinema need not have a seating capacity of at least 30% of the old cinema sought to be demolished. It would suffice if he made a 200-seater cinema even if the 30% came to more than 200 seats. But a minimum of 150 seats is mandatory.

For instance, if there’s an existing cinema with a seating capacity of 400 seats. If the landlord wants to demolish the cinema due to continuous losses, he would be able to make a commercial or residential building on that land if he makes another cinema of at least 150 seats. Although 30% of 400 is 120, the requirement is of a minimum 150-seater. Likewise, if the cinema seeking permission to be demolished is a 1,000-seater, the landlord need not construct a 300-seater cinema (30% of the old seating capacity). It would suffice if he made a cinema with 200 seats only.

A lot many cinemas in Maharashtra have been demolished over the years but each of these cinemas has earmarked space for another cinema on the land before constructing either a commercial or residential building in place of the old (demolished) cinema. For instance, Apsara cinema at Grant Road in Bombay has given way to residential building but there’s a floor earmarked for a cinema which has not been constructed.

The Pune Cinema Owners Association’s petition for permitting cinemas to change user of the land without compulsorily earmarking space for another smaller cinema is pending in the Bombay high court.