Government Committee helps chopping Amusement Tax in half to handle film theatre tax burden; others need it gone utterly
REGINA – Mounting taxes on film tickets in Regina had been a scorching subject earlier than the town’s Government Committee assembly this week.
At difficulty was a proposal to chop the town’s Amusement Tax from 10 per cent down to 5 per cent.
That administration advice, which carried Wednesday by a 6-3 vote and now goes to council Sept. 28 for remaining approval, is supposed to assist offset the enlargement of the provincial gross sales tax on Oct. 1, with the six % PST set to be imposed on film tickets and different leisure together with sporting occasions on that date.
Affordability and the general tax on film tickets had been different causes cited by administration for decreasing the Amusement Tax to 5 %.
However even with the discount, general taxes on film tickets — with the 5 % amusement tax, 5 % GST and the expanded six % PST — are nonetheless set to rise in Regina by one per cent after the PST takes impact, as much as 16 per cent.
The Amusement Tax has been in place within the metropolis since 1923 and has been allowed beneath the Cities Act. However over time, the tax has regularly been faraway from such objects as Riders video games, occasions on the Brandt Centre, and different venues.
Since 2003, the amusement tax now solely applies to film theatres in Regina, with cinema operators hold one % to cowl their prices of administering the tax. Final 12 months there had been dialogue at Metropolis Corridor of increasing to different venues, however ultimately administration didn’t carry a advice ahead.
That film theatres had been the one ones nonetheless footing the amusement tax was a specific bone of competition for cinema house owners, who’ve repeatedly been earlier than council over time attempting to persuade the town to eliminate the tax completely. They had been again at Metropolis Corridor Wednesday, and made it recognized to Government Committee they thought the proposed 5 per cent discount wasn’t sufficient.
Delegations need amusement tax gone utterly
“It’s time for this tax to go,” mentioned Michael Paris of the Film Theatre Affiliation of Canada, certainly one of three delegations representing the cinema trade who offered at Government Committee.
Paris mentioned Regina risked turning into the “highest taxed jurisdiction for film tickets in North America” if it didn’t act by Oct. 1, making the purpose that if nothing was completed by that date, moviegoers would pay 21 per cent in taxes.
As for the proposed amusement tax discount to 5 per cent, Paris mentioned it was nonetheless “5 per cent an excessive amount of”, saying it was “5 per cent greater than every other enterprise is Regina is made to pay.”
In accordance with the Affiliation’s information launch, Regina was solely certainly one of two municipalities in Canada that levied such a tax, and was set to be the one one to gather it on prime of GST and PST. In no different jurisdiction did the whole tax prime 15 %. It was additionally famous later in the assembly that Saskatoon had gotten rid of its personal amusement tax in 2007.
Paris pointed to pressures the cinema trade had confronted, together with COVID-19.
“Not solely had been cinemas the primary to shut, the final to reopen, however we’re seemingly the one sector that had 100 per cent of its prospects ushered into the captive arms of our opponents in streaming video,” mentioned Paris. He pointed to competitors from Amazon, Apple, Disney and others, “who pay no tax in Regina, make use of no person in Regina and contribute nothing to your native financial system.”
Rainbow Cinemas closing in 4 days
The entire dialogue was well timed for an additional motive: the Rainbow Cinema within the Golden Mile Centre on Albert Road is about to shut this weekend, with its remaining screenings taking place Sept. 25.
Financial pressures had been cited for the choice, and the closure has been broadly mourned on social media by film followers attracted by Rainbow’s low ticket costs and film choice.
Throughout his presentation, Paris identified to councillors that the amusement tax impacted solely 4 cinema companies within the metropolis, including that “in 5 days it will likely be three companies, as a result of the Rainbow Cinema on the Golden Mile might be closing.”
The second presenter, Mike Melnyk of the Film Theatre Affiliation of Central Canada, famous that Wilf Runge, previously with Rainbow’s Golden Mile cinema location, had come to council in 2009 and had spoken on the influence of the amusement tax again then.
“Issues haven’t gotten higher for cinemas,” mentioned Melnyk, noting cinemas had been struggling to compete with folks staying at house utilizing streaming providers, in addition to prices of larger screens and higher projecting programs.
Melnyk made the purpose that cinemas wanted to stay inexpensive and that prospects can be those damage ultimately.
“I do know who’s going to finish up paying this tax. It’s younger children and seniors. These are the individuals who go to the films as a result of it’s what they’ll afford.”
Council additionally heard from from Landmark Cinemas Chief Monetary Officer Dave Cohen. He famous that as of August 2022 Canadian field workplace had decreased by one third in comparison with pre-pandemic, and that studios had launched their very own streaming providers and had been retaining the titles for themselves. He mentioned cinemas now need to compete with their very own suppliers for film attendance.
The amusement tax “makes a film ticket much less interesting than subscribing to a different streaming service, the place folks in Regina will merely keep house,” mentioned Cohen.
Earlier, Paris had made the identical level that the message being despatched to folks in Regina was to “keep house. Keep in your sofa. Don’t go on dates, don’t go to your child’s party, keep house.”
Council vote was not unanimous
In the long run, council went together with the advice of decreasing the amusement tax to 5 per cent, however stopped in need of scrapping it completely.
Coun. Bob Hawkins was one of many sure votes, calling the administration advice “honest and sound.” Hawkins additionally made it recognized he was not persuaded that scrapping the tax would hold ticket costs down.
“I’m simply not persuaded that persons are staying away from the theatre due to this tax. Nor am I persuaded that if the tax had been eliminated, the worth of film tickets would go down… I suppose this would possibly forestall them from shopping for popcorn, however I doubt that even that’s the case.”
Councillor Lori Bresciani, who chaired the assembly, ended up one of many “no” votes, after she tried to maneuver that the amusement tax ought to be eliminated utterly. That was deemed out of order, however earlier than the ultimate vote Bresciani made clear her displeasure.
“I feel that is an absolute regressive tax for an trade that has been beneath hearth, not simply within the pandemic,” mentioned Bresciani. “In 4 extra days the Rainbow theatre closes its doorways. Let’s simply name it a theatre tax if that’s what you need to. I continually hear from many ‘we need to be open for enterprise, we need to be open for enterprise, we need to welcome enterprise right here.’… that is 16 %, that is the very best in Canada. Are we open for enterprise?”
In chatting with reporters afterward, Bresciani additionally famous she thought singling out the cinemas for the tax was discriminatory.
“I’d not need us to be taking a look at taxing only one trade, that was my concern right this moment. I feel we even have to have a look at it … I’d say popping out of the pandemic, that is completely the unsuitable time to nonetheless be the very best within the nation to tax households.”
She was additionally requested if she thought the amusement tax contributed to Rainbow closing its doorways.
“Completely I do,” she mentioned. “There’s solely a lot you are able to do.”
The Government Committee resolution to decrease the amusement tax now goes to the complete council assembly for a remaining resolution on Sept. 28.