Update from Regina Council: Resolutions to reduce movie ticket taxes have been passed, but bylaw adoption must wait until the October 12 meeting.
REGINA — The drama over the city’s amusement tax on movie tickets appears to have come to an end at Regina City Hall on Wednesday.
Ultimately, the board at its regular meeting favored an amended motion that would see the amusement tax removed completely on cinemas effective January 1, 2024.
The main motion also called for the reduction of the entertainment tax on theaters from 10% to 5%, a measure to counter the imposition of the 6% provincial sales tax on theaters on October 1. This was in line with the recommendation that had already been adopted in the Executive Committee the previous week.
Resolutions to reduce the entertainment tax to 5% in October and eliminate it entirely on January 1, 2024 passed the board.
But the votes were not unanimous and, last drama, the regulation which would have allowed the changes to come into force on October 1st did not pass in three readings.
Councilor Bob Hawkins voted against unanimous consent for third reading, meaning it will return to council Oct. 12 for final passage. That’s when the 5% reduction. 100 will come into effect.
The city’s indication is that the reason the full withdrawal will wait until January 1, 2024 is to give the administration time to adjust to the change. Regina’s administration is currently in the budget process for 2023.
This will also give the city time to determine if it might be able to generate revenue from other event tickets. Mayor Sandra Masters told reporters after the meeting that the administration would contact Tourism Regina to see if it would be a potential funding source. Masters said the city could “consider expanding (the entertainment tax) to understand if it’s a source of funding for tourism and events.”
The Council’s decision to end the amusement tax on movie theater tickets came after continued pressure and feedback from movie theater owners, who had pointed out that Regina would be the highest-taxed jurisdiction in North America for cinema tickets.
Even with the 5% cut, Regina moviegoers would pay 16% federal, provincial and municipal taxes on movie tickets – the highest on the continent.
Another issue raised was that the entertainment tax only targeted movie theaters, with only three movie theater complexes in Regina affected. The tax had been removed from other events and venues over several years.
The closure of Rainbow Cinemas at the Golden Mile shopping center on Albert Street, reducing the number of cinema screens in the city, was also a backdrop to the discussion. The Rainbow screened its latest films last Sunday.
The board was ultimately swayed by arguments from theater owners who appeared before the executive committee and city council over the past two weeks. Their main argument was that the tax would deter customers from going to cinemas, which were under pressure from competition from streaming services.
On Wednesday, Michael Paris of the Motion Picture Theaters Association of Canada appeared by telephone with the council and repeated his call for the tax to be removed.
“Every additional cost impacts people’s ability to cross the threshold into cinema,” Paris said. “We need to remain a competitive environment to continue to get movies with our distribution partners, but at the end of the day, we need people to be in our locations…This tax matters, it matters a lot, and I believe in l history of my industry, this kind of thing has never mattered more.”