Taiwan's Cinema Owners Voice Opposition to Proposed Movie Ticket Tax

The territory's Ministry of Culture is pushing for a 5 percent tax on all movie tickets sold, with the funds to be used to help develop the local film industry.

Taiwan's Ministry of Culture this week proposed introducing a 5 percent tax on all movie tickets sold in the territory, with the funds used to help develop the domestic film industry. The suggestion has been met with swift opposition from cinema operators, however.

The Ministry floated the idea during a meeting with local filmmakers and industry trade group representatives, saying it would be implemented as an amendment to the existing Motion Picture Act, which allows for the creation of a public fund to subsidize the film sector.

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Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai noted in the meeting the popularity of tax-based film funds around the world, according to local news paper the Taipei Times.

France, for example, has a long-standing 11 percent tax on movie tickets that is channeled into the film sector.

Reps for the local exhibition industry have voiced strong disapproval of the proposal. Michael Liao, chairman of a film and drama trade association in New Taipei City, said the tax would simply be passed on to consumers as a ticket price hike, which will scare away moviegoers. Liao, who is also chairman of local theater circuit Showtime Cinemas, said his company has resisted raising ticket prices for as long as a decade, despite rising utilities costs, for fear of alienating consumers. 

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By way of compromise, Taiwanese director Wang Shau-di has put forward the idea of reducing the tax to 3 percent for movie theaters that hold promotional events for domestic Taiwanese films.

Lung countered that the share of locally produced films shown in Taiwan remains low -- 17.46 percent of the market -- compared to other territories in the region, such as Japan, where domestic films account for 55 percent, or South Korea at 50 percent. The minister added that she realizes the policy will face resistance, but her office believes it is essential to the longterm vitality of the domestic Taiwanese film industry.