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Chennai: Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa has unveiled another subsidy for the citizens of her state, subsidised cinemas, called (what else), Amma Cinema Theatres.

The subsidy was among those announced during the budget session of the Chennai municipal corporation on Wednesday, and involves creating Amma Cinema Theatres on vacant land owned by the corporation “to entertain the poor and middle class," according to mayor Saidai S. Duraisamy.

Details on the number of such movie halls and ticket prices have not been announced.

“In Chennai, in most of the cinema theatres, the ticket charges are high and cinema theatres are operated in most of the commercial complexes. Because of this, the poor and the middle-class people are not able to afford entertainment," said Duraisamy.

Interestingly, Tamil Nadu has the lowest ticket prices in the country because the state government has capped ticket prices at 50 for air-conditioned cinema halls and 120 for multiplexes that offer facilities such as a food court. In comparison, cinema ticket prices in Delhi and Mumbai can go as high as 1,000.

The mayor said the corporation came up with the idea because cinema theatres reduce depression among the poor and the downtrodden.

A state that worships actors, and elects its actors as chief ministers, Tamil Nadu is second only to Andhra Pradesh when it comes to its peoples’ movie-going habit. Tamil Nadu has 800 theatres (counting multiplexes as many times as the number of screens they have) and 180 films produced a year, while Andhra Pradesh leads the country with 1600 theatres and about 200 films a year, said Abirami Ramanathan, president of the Chennai Theatre Owners Association.

For cinema hall owners, this initiative comes as good news as they believe it will increase the movie-going habit of people and, in turn, kill piracy.

“Amma theatres is a welcome sign. The movie-going habit has dropped by about 40% in the last decade with the rise of movies broadcasted on televisions. If tickets at Amma Theatres are priced at 10-15, it will pull people to theatres and that will kill piracy," said Ramanathan.

Ramanathan says this will not affect the business of the other cinema halls as it will cater to a different audience.

Besides theatres, the corporation announced plans for Amma Corporation Hostels, 20 litre mineral water cans at 20, and residential schools for the poor, among others. These follow the runaway-hits, 1 idli at Amma Canteen and 10 Amma mineral water that have taken the state by storm.

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