Film industry back in court battle
LAHORE: Uncertainty rose on Friday in the wake of a court intervention, even after the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association and the Pakistan Film Producers Association had cleared many of the pending issues concerning legality of Indian films.
The issue began several weeks ago when Mubashir Lucman filed a petition declaring the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) issued in 2006 as violation of the Constitution.
“If you want to run Indian films, you should legalise it or create legislation on it but you cannot do it the way it’s currently being done,” said Amir Ali Shah, counsel for various associations pushing the cause to ban Indian films in multiplexes.
The uncertainty of Pakistani cinema has created widespread panic among the exhibitors and distributors who have through the growth of new multiplexes and foreign films developed a small market in the country. The question of banning Indian films has been largely a lever used to pressure exhibitors and politicians connected to protect the local industry rather than inspired by broader hyper-nationalist sentiments.
The country whose history at one point saw somewhere between 750-1,110 cinema screens in the country was reduced by 2005, to nearly 20 cinemas. From 2008 to 2014, over 5 billion rupees have been invested in new cinemas increasing the number to 104.
The memorandum of understanding agreed upon by major film producers may just be the first framework that has been created for the future of the new film industry to come. The agreement points out that the future of cinema has become deeply connected with the overall growth of Pakistan film.
Further, by taking back the case, major film exhibitors in the country would ensure that 50% of the screens would be provided to films of calibre while on Eid 50% of the capacity in multiplex cinemas would be dedicated to Pakistani films.
“We have to look at the larger perspective, we are going through a rebuilding process, so any deterrence to that whether it is the entertainment tax or Indian films issue, its equivalent to hurting yourself,” said Nadeem Mandviwalla, a leading member of the PFEP.
By bringing back the case exhibitors are wary over why the agreement was signed in the first place. Zorraiz Lashari, who is the chairman of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors’ Association, says that it will raise a lot of questions over what was the point of the agreement.