Money is lying, yet why cinema hall owners are not taking loans

Many complain that there are no good quality movies in the country. The audience is not going to the cinema. In this situation, the owners of the houses will be able to repay the loan, commercial banks are not interested in giving them loans. That’s what the owners say.

Again, there are various difficulties in getting loan money. Apart from this, the hall owners have doubts about how to repay the loan due to the fear that renovating the hall or building a new cinema hall will not make any profit. Due to the reluctance of commercial banks and house owners to give and take loans, the huge amount of money allocated by the government for the development of this sector is somehow lying idle.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Film Exhibitors Association Awlad Hossain told Prothom Alo that in 1979 his father Abdul Awal started ‘Swapnapuri’ cinema hall. They had three cinema halls in Munshiganj as a family business. Two are closed and warehoused there. Earlier the landlords had a different respect in the society. That tradition is lost. Now people laugh at them.

Awlad Hossain said, ‘Five-six viewers come to watch any movie. As a result, Scheduled Bank is not showing much enthusiasm about this loan of Bangladesh Bank. The process of getting this loan is also complicated.

It has been found that there were 1 thousand 400 cinema halls in the country in the nineties. The number has gradually reduced to 50 to 60 now. However, Bangladesh Bank has a refinancing scheme of Tk 1,000 crore for the renovation of cinema halls and the construction of new halls. Under this, house owners can take loans through Scheduled Bank if they want.

Bangladesh Bank published a circular on February 14, 2021 about that refinancing scheme. Scheduled banks interested in long-term loans at low interest under this scheme need to enter into an agreement with the Department of Offsite Supervision of Bangladesh Bank. Bangladesh Bank was supposed to distribute Tk 500 crore in the first phase from this fund of its own financing to bring renaissance in the film industry through the use of modern technology, creating an investment-friendly environment, and increasing the skills of artists and craftsmen. The remaining Tk 500 crore was to be disbursed at a later date subject to the confirmation of proper utilization of the disbursed loans.

According to the information of Bangladesh Bank, two owners have received a loan of Tk 18 crore for four cineplexes so far. At present no other commercial bank has applied for refinancing by lending to its customers under the scheme.

The representatives of the Bangladesh Film Exhibitors Association say that so far 52 owners have applied for loans in various banks. Many owners say that it is not possible for many owners to meet the loan conditions. Apart from this, Bangladesh Bank’s instructions are not obeyed by the concerned officials of Scheduled Bank at the field level.

However, the bank officials say that when they go to the cinema and see that there are no viewers, they are not interested in giving this loan. But this loan is supposed to be given so that the cinema halls can turn around.

In a letter from the Banking Regulations and Policy Department of Bangladesh Bank on January 14, the Scheduled Banks were informed that despite the interest of the owners in taking loans, many did not apply for loans on time because they did not have a clear understanding of the process. The Scheduled Bank also did not make significant number of applications to the concerned department of Bangladesh Bank within the stipulated period.

Under the scheme, the period for scheduled banks to get long-term loans at low interest rates has been extended three times. Banks will get this opportunity till December this year. According to Bangladesh Bank data, only seven Scheduled Banks have applied for the agreement so far (currently 61 Scheduled Banks). Out of this, Premium Bank applied for refinancing of 15 crores and One Bank 3 crores, i.e. a total of 18 crores, which was approved by Bangladesh Bank.

Bangladesh Bank Additional Director (Department of Offsite Supervision) Kazi Arif Uz Zaman told Prothom Alo that this is a big opportunity for low interest loans to revive cinema halls. It is important to use this opportunity.

Kazi Arif Uz Zaman said, if a bank applies for refinancing under this scheme, Bangladesh Bank can inspect the customer’s business establishment or establishment to ensure proper use of the loan. So far Bangladesh Bank has approved three applications after investigation or verification. Currently there are no more applications submitted.

On August 25, 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed the Ministry of Information to set up a special fund to revive cinema halls at the National Economic Council Executive Committee (ECNEC) meeting. After that, refinancing scheme of 1000 crore rupees of Bangladesh Bank was launched.

Bangladesh Bank’s notification says that maximum Tk 10 crore loan will be given for construction of new cinema halls, renovation and modernization of existing halls.

Who took the loan, what is the experience
Isfa Khairul Haque, the owner of Grand Riverview Cineplex in Rajshahi, received a loan of Tk 3 crore. With that he bought the machine and opened one of the two halls in the Cineplex. But he also heard about suffering. He said, ‘I visited different banks including Agrani, Pubali for a year for this loan. No one agreed. Later, when they went to One Bank, they did not want to pay at first. Because the bank has not yet signed an agreement with Bangladesh Bank. Later they made a deal and I asked for Rs 10 crore. Got 3 crores.’

Apart from this, Show-Motion Limited has received a loan of Tk 15 crore for three cineplexes. They are Border Sambhar in Dhaka and Cineplex in Chittagong and Bogra.

Isfa Khairul Haque thinks that the government money is lying, but the banks are not interested in it, the lack of patriotism of the employees and the inability to trust the customers are behind this. He regretted that a bank had lost the application file itself. And this one year, how many officials have to go around the table, it is not calculated.