The revival of the cinema industry in Pakistan -
Pakistan Press Foundation

The revival of the cinema industry in Pakistan

By Farooq Baloch / Rafay Mahmood

KARACHI: Struggling for its survival for the past few decades, Pakistan’s cinema industry has recovered dramatically, only to emerge as a lucrative business witnessing ‘biggest opening’ records made and broken one after another.

However, the industry — despite surpassing Rs1.5 billion annual turnover — falls way short of fully capitalizing on the growing demand; leaves a huge scope for new investments in the sector.

“Cinema is the most lucrative business in Pakistan but following the general perception, no one knows about it,” Nadeem Mandviwalla — whose company Mandviwalla Entertainment also manages Atrium cinemas in Karachi — told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.

The example of Atrium Cinemas Karachi — that enjoy a significant share in the market — can best support Mandviwalla’s claims; the project has been a huge success for the company that’s planning similar ventures.

Mandviwalla — whose efforts helped in bringing Indian movies to Pakistan — said he set up Atrium Cinemas Karachi investing Rs120 million a year ago and says he will surely recover his money by the end of 2012.

Giving an example of the industry’s growth in recent years, Mandviwalla said an Indian movie ‘Singh is King’ was released in Pakistan three years ago and grossed Rs30 million in three weeks. “Today ‘Don 2’, a film of similar grandeur has done the same business in just five days,” he said.

“Of course the demand is increasing!” he added.

Due to the very increase in demand, Don 2 was released on maximum number of screens, 38, all over Pakistan — including Peshawar.

While the cinema business has grown dramatically in the last few years, latest releases have broken all previous records for ‘the biggest openings’ in the history of Pakistani cinemas.

‘My Name Is Khan’, an Indian movie, grossed a record Rs21.7 million in 2010 during its first week across Pakistan, Mandviwalla said. In 2011, this record was broken by Pakistani blockbuster ‘Bol’ that grossed Rs25 million; he added.

He further said that opening week revenues for ‘Body Guard’, another Indian hit, amounted to Rs31.3 million, breaking the record of ‘Bol’. The latest Bollywood release ‘Don 2’ grossed 36.9 million in the first week, breaking all previous records, he said.

The industry sources attribute the growth in cinema business to the import of Indian movies; adoption of technology and the growing middle-income class visiting cinemas.

All the industries in the world have changed because of technology; cinema is no exception, Asim Qureshi, the CEO of Brand TV and Brand Cinema — exclusive marketer of Atrium cinemas — told The Express Tribune.

The distribution cost for prints — a fixed cost — of a 35-mm movie is very high, ranging between $4,000 and $5,000, Qureshi said. The alternate distribution channel is the digital (disk) one, which costs about $500, he added.

India is digitising its industry for the very same reasons, he said, which reduces the fixed cost per screen dramatically; helps reach maximum screens. Another benefit of movies released in digital format, Qureshi said, is they are easily convertible to 3D — which is going to dominate the industry in future, according to him.

Referring to the demand of 3D movies, he said they rescreened the Hollywood movie ‘Avatar’ after a year, in 3D this time. He added the movie kept doing houseful business for about four months — Don 2, which is currently doing huge business on box office, has been displayed in both 2D and 3D.

It will be a win-win scenario for those investing in cinemas — especially those compatible with 3D technology — he said.

There is a need for at least 200 — ideally 500 — more cinemas to cater to the need of Pakistani market, Qureshi said. “Every city in Pakistan needs Atriums and digital modern cinemas with 3D capability because the dynamics of the business are changing,” he said.

Talking about the audience, he said, people from all classes are visiting Atrium cinemas. ‘Bol’ was put off the screen when it was doing house full business, he said, the majority of audience were women who even showed up on mid night shows. Similarly, ‘Rio’ attracted lots of families — especially those with children — to Atrium cinemas, Qureshi said.

The price for a 3D movie ticket is Rs500 and despite that people from middle-income localities show up in huge numbers, he added. Due to massive traffic, he said, people don’t always find tickets which is why they are booked in advance. Ideally, he said, more than a hundred screens are needed to fully capitalise on Karachi’s potential today.

Referring to where the investment should be made, Qureshi said Nazimabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gulistan-e-Jauhar are the places where the target audience is.

Since the cinema industry is recovering from a major downfall, Mandviwalla said, they are talking to the government not to put any excise duty for five years, which should encourage the potential investors even more.

“It is high time for people to invest in cinema as the demand is great and hindrances few,” he said.

Source: The Express Tribune