Last week, Pakistani cinemas declared an indefinite ban on the screening of Indian films following the Indian film association's ban on Pakistani talent, but how will it affect local cinemas? We find out.
Speaking to Images, Khorem Gultasab General Manager of SuperCinema, Lahore, explains that the suspension was provoked due to the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association's (IMMP) ban on local talent. "Naturally, we were bound to take action on two accounts: 1) to show solidarity with our army; and 2) to show solidarity with our Pakistani actors," he says.
"The nation's dignity and pride supersedes any business or monetary value," Gultasab adds, citing that although 50-60% of the revenue generation came from Bollywood films alone, the decision to suspend Indian films was an "instant agreement" from local stakeholders.
He believes "it's time to show India that its trade bodies cannot ban our actors and not expect retaliation. They must not forget that Pakistan is the third largest market for Indian films."
Now that re-runs of old Pakistani films are hitting cinemas along with current films, the GM emphasises that Pakistani cinemas cannot survive on Pakistani films alone.
He gives us the breakdown: "There are 52 weeks in a year, the lifespan of any film is 1 week, a blockbuster, 2 weeks. There were a total of 15 Pakistani films released last year, this year so far there have been 6, of which only 3 worked, the others flopped. Even if you double the amount of each film's run-time with the few films released, you're still left with 40-42 weeks of empty screens. What will cinemas do for those weeks?"
"The nation's dignity and pride supersedes any business or monetary value," says a cinema manager in Lahore, citing that although 50-60% of the revenue generation came from Bollywood films alone, the decision to suspend Indian films was an "instant agreement" from local stakeholders.
Like many, Gultasab too hopes the ban is lifted soon. "Pakistan and India are neighbours, and they will be, they are not going away anywhere. If they cannot be friends, they need to learn to co-exist."
Sharing similar sentiments, Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Atrium cinema, Karachi and Centaurus cinema, calls the resolution passed by the IMMP "very immature and unethical".
"We did this because of IMPPA's resolution," he says of the suspension. "We (stake holders) had to respond quickly. There was no time to call a meeting to discuss." Hours after the ban was announced, the necessary stake holders reached the conclusion to suspend screening of Indian films effective immediately.
"The trade association is supposed to improve relations, not destroy them," Mandviwalla argued, stating that the current Pak-India relations are very delicate, and should not be inflamed at such a time, especially by trade associations.
Speaking of the suspension in the long-run, he says, "It will hurt them, it will hurt us. It will hurt legitimate business stake holders. The winner is the pirate."
Although he reveals there has been no decrease in footfall in cinemas yet, however, if the suspension is prolonged, it'll result in "hurting cinemas here", due to which he urges that "sanity should prevail".
Mohsin Yaseen of Cinepax (Karachi) management echoed the same sentiments with regards to footfall. Customers are still breezing in through the doors to watch local and Hollywood films.
Until the ban on Indian films is lifted, local cinemas are playing longer runs of recent releases as well as re-runs of last year's films for example, Ho Mann Jahaan and Bin Roye, so if you missed those the last time, you can watch them now!
Bollywood flicks PINK, Baar Baar Dekho and Mohenjo Daro were playing at Cinepax last, before they were removed. All other Hindi films like Mirzya (October 7) and Shivaay (October 28), which will be released subsequently, will not be screened at Cinepax, says Yaseen.
"It (the suspension) was a decision made by the management itself," he explains. "We haven't received any complaints regarding the removal of Indian films from our consumers, and we've started playing old films from last year with a mix of the new ones."
Although it's too early to judge footfall in less than a week of the suspension, however the long run might take a toll.
The temporary ban, which will go on for an indefinite period, is in accordance to IMPPA's resolution, state the managements of the aforementioned cinemas. Till their ban on Pakistani talent is lifted, the suspension will continue.
Until then, local cinemas are playing longer runs of recent releases as well as re-runs of last year's films for example, Ho Mann Jahaan and Bin Roye, so if you missed those the last time, you can watch them now!