‘Decision on screening new Indian films to be taken on Wednesday’
ISLAMABAD: Cinema owners will decide on Wednesday whether to lift the ban on screening new Indian movies, Centaurus Marketing and Call Centre Supervisor Anil Altaf said.
He said Cineplex has decided to screen already released Indian movies and the decision regarding new films will take longer as a lot of people are involved in the process of importing a film.
Pakistani cinema owners had in September decided not to show Indian movies until the tension between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control dissipates.
The decision to ban films from across the border was made after the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association banned Pakistani artists from working in Indian films.
Mr Altaf said the decision to not show Indian movies has affected business and fewer shows are put on each day, but cinemas have not decided to downsize as yet.
He said Cineplex had five movie screens in the mall, including a VIP theatre with 12 seats, two larger halls of 175 seats each and two small halls with 72 seats each.
“There is a lot of demand for Indian movies and till two months ago, when Indian movies were still screened, we used to have full house at all the screenings. We would put five shows a day and six on the weekends, because we would get requests for an additional show,” he said.
“But because we are only showing western and Pakistani movies, we only put on four shows a day and only have a full house on some weekends. People only come to the cinema now when a popular Pakistani or a western movie is playing. If a Pakistani movie flops, we do not have another movie to replace it with now because a limited number of Pakistani films are released each year,” he explained.
Investors are now reluctant to open cinemas in the country and are waiting to see if the ban on Indian films is lifted before they invest money in a movie theatre, he said.
Cinema owners in Rawalpindi are also starting to build pressure on the association to lift the ban on Indian movies.
“Our business has been affected as we only screen western and Pakistani films, the audience for which is not that large,” said Mohammad Kaleem, operations manager at Cine Gold in Bahria Town.
He said cinemas had to spend a lot on advertising in order to get people to watch Pakistani movies.
“We screen western and Pakistani films as well as cartoons, but are only able to put on two shows a day,” he added.
One of the oldest cinemas in Rawalpindi, Ciros Cinema has also reduced the number of shows from four to two and has had to cancel shows because there were not that many people attending.
The owner of the cinema, Manzar Sheikh, told Dawn that business had dropped to 80pc since the ban had been imposed.
“We also had to cancel shows on the weekends because only four or five people turned up in a hall meant for 500 people,” he said.
Mr Sheikh explained that Pakistani films are seen as an extension of the regular dramas and that Indian films are thought to be more entertaining and glamorous.
“Ordinary people want to watch Indian movies and the viewership for western movies is very limited,” he said.
Owner of Khursheed Cinema, Syed Ali Raza, on the other hand said that Pakistani cinema owners should encourage Pakistani films.
“Cinema houses should also screen Pakistani movies including Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto ones and limit the number of shows for Indian movies,” he said.
Mr Raza said his cinema house was located in the middle of Rawalpindi and that many people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa come to the movie theatre to see Pashto movies.
“It was a good decision by the association to stop showing Indian movies on the silver screen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (Pemra) also banned cable operators from airing Indian movies, which has led to an increase in the sale of Indian movies on compact discs from movie shops.
A shopkeeper in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, Khalid Mehmood, said that for many years now, his biggest sales were from software CDs and that since the ban on Indian movies, the sale of Indian film CDs has increased.
CD shop owners in Raja Bazaar are also experiencing an increase in sales and whole sale CD dealers have established shops in the markets across the city.
A wholesaler at Imperial Market, Awais Anjum, told Dawn that his CD business had picked up since the ban on Indian content.
A resident of Chaklala Scheme III, Iqbal Hussein, disagreed with the ban on Indian content and said people should have the right to chose what they want to watch.
“The ban cannot really be effective because viewers can still access Indian content via the Internet. People love watching Indian movies and dramas and Pakistani movies are usually copies of Indian films,” said Mohsin Malik, a resident of Westridge.