Less than two months ago, we had done a detailed report titled ‘Multiplex rip-off?’ on the cost of sundry snacks and beverages sold at the city’s multiplexes.

My colleague Prachi Bari did the rounds of the city theatres and found that in many multiplexes, the security at the entrance did not allow her enter with something as innocuous as a bar of chocolate. It had to be deposited with the security with a name tag. Customers were not allowed to bring in tiffin boxes.

Inside, bottled water was being sold at Rs 60 – at three times the MRP (maximum retail price) mentioned on the bottle. Two samosas were being sold for Rs 100, cold coffee at Rs 110 and a regular glass of Pepsi at Rs 150. Five star rates with service that did not come anywhere close to five star standards.

This was the rip-off by multiplexes that the common man is angry about. All of us certainly love to eat out, especially when we are at the movies with our friends and family. We love to munch on popcorn and sip our favourite soda with our eyes glued to the screen. However, why should extortionist rates be forced upon us by multiplexes?

This was the outrage that led to a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court in April. The Maharashtra government which was one of the respondents in the case, assured the court that it would set up a committee and frame a policy to look into the issue within six weeks.

It is therefore quite gratifying that the state government, on Friday, assured that from August 1 it will ensure that food is not charged above the MRP by multiplexes. The other important announcement from the government was that it would ban restrictions imposed by multiplexes on taking food from outside.

This is how things ought to be. Cinemagoers are already paying high ticket costs and added to that is the high premium on snacks and beverages imposed by multiplexes. People ought to be given the freedom of choice to bring their own food from outside or purchase what they wish from the food counters at reasonable rates.

It is now important that the Maharashtra government conveys this decision to all the multiplexes in the state so that there is no confusion on this count. There is no way by which multiplexes can charge extortionist rates on food items to their patrons. They need to be innovative and cut costs and overheads to earn the profits they desire. However, to do what they have been doing all this while is simply not acceptable. It would be wise on their part to assess the mood of the public, take stock of the situation and do what is prudent.

The government’s decision has been welcomed by the public and, come August, it would only be fitting to celebrate this decision by carrying food to the movies.

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