Film ‘ticket tax’ would be a boon

A small fee paid at the box office could help fund UAE filmmaking. Ravindranath K / The National
A small fee paid at the box office could help fund UAE filmmaking. Ravindranath K / The National

The UAE has been the focus of international attention this past week, thanks to the starring role played by the Abu Dhabi desert in the teaser trailer for the much- anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The clip is a reminder of the role this country is playing as a location for Hollywood and Bollywood films. But it should also serve as notice of the need to promote a viable local film industry.

One suggestion to assist Emirati filmmaking – first posited in The National in October – is that a small fee be added to the price of admission at cinemas. The idea is that audiences pay, say, Dh1 to help fund the local industry when they see a feature film. The concept has been working well in France, where such a levy has been in place since the 1940s. The funds raised have helped build the world’s third-largest movie industry by volume, and have led to the creation of some highly acclaimed movies that otherwise may never have been produced.

The idea has gained traction in recent weeks, becoming a hot topic on social media, at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, where it gained the support of Emirati director Ali F Mostafa. One voice of dissent has been that of Michael Garin, the head of production company Image Nation. His argument is that the local industry does not lack funds but expertise.

However, the two are not mutually exclusive. The money raised from a “ticket tax” has to be spent wisely, including investment in training actors, writers, producers, directors and film crew. It would not be just a case of giving someone a big cheque and asking them to make a movie. Additionally, the system would help wean the industry off direct government support, which cannot continue forever.

As for the levy on cinema goers, a Dh1 fee on top of the cost of the ticket, popcorn and fizzy drinks would hardly be noticed. Unlike groceries, rent and transport costs, cinema tickets are a discretionary expense. Few people who really love cinema will quibble at the chance to support the creation of more movies with a local flavour.

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM