Eid attracts filmmakers like moths to a flame; producers vie to draw audiences to their films during the lucrative holiday and this year is no different.
While Pakistanis were spoiled for choice on Eid ul Azha last year, this year cinema-goers get to choose between only two local films: Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2.
Punjab Nahi Jaungi, which stars Humayun Saeed, Mehwish Hayat and Urwa Hocane in lead roles, is a romantic comedy that revolves around a love triangle and more. Na Maloom Afraad 2 is a slapstick comedy starring Fahad Mustafa, Javed Sheikh, Mohsin Abbas Haider, Hania Amir and Urwa Hocane.
There's no denying that both films feature the industry's heavyweights and are crowd-pullers, but which film will people flock to most... or is that choice even in the public's hands?
A look at Cinepax's Eid schedule and onward reveals that NMA2 will feature on more screens than PNJ on opening day. Although Mohsin Yaseen of Cinepax refused to comment on the disparity between the allocation of the two films, he did say that "Cinepax's show timings are based on the duration and length of the film, as well as the public demand and box office numbers."
"Eid clashes generally depend on the film, if the film is a hit it'll do well, otherwise it won't," he said.
He clarified that the current show timings are tentative and the number of screens distributed among each may see a shift in the future according to public demand.
Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 share a similar duration, the former running a few minutes longer.
Nueplex's schedule for Eid and the days following corresponds with Cinepax's, but with double the shows for NMA2 as compared to PNJ.
In this context, it is extremely relevant to note that NMA 2 has been co-produced by Excellency Films, a production company owned by Cinepax, Nueplex as well as CineStar cinemas.
Nueplex was not available for a comment on the matter, but Na Maloom Afraad 2 director Nabeel Qureshi had echoed Mohsin's belief prior to the cinemas' Eid schedule release: that the number of screens don't matter as cinemas replace them with films that fare better.
However, Punjab Nahi Jaungi star Humayun Saeed, aware of the allotted screen timings, said, "I think that both movies are going to be good and both have been made with considerable effort. Both should, therefore, be given an equal chance. Let's see what happens but at the moment I do think that it is unfair."
The unfair advantage may seem glaringly obvious but Nadeem Mandviwalla of Atrium cinemas believes that Eid releases are "a bad strategy" altogether.
"Films which have a good public perception should not be released on the same date as we do not have a big market that'll allow those films to do well at the same time," he stressed. "The cinemas will divide the shows automatically and that is not going to be good for either of the films."
"If Eid films are doing well and collecting Rs 30-40 crore [altogether], the money will divide between the two."
Giving an example of his cinema, where both films have been given relatively equal screen time, he explained, "The two films have the same public perception, so the public will come out as is but the five shows will be divided for each film. Automatically they [films] cannot go over Rs 3-4 crore in the first weekend [of their Eid collection], and if the initial is that low then the whole run will be lower."
Commenting on the screen time variance between NMA2 and PNJ in the other two Karachi cinemas, Mandviwalla (who also owns film distribution company, Mandviwalla Entertainment) said, "It's natural but not fair. At the moment the exhibitors have the biggest responsibility in rebuilding the [film] industry because they remain the ONLY source of revenue for any producer. Thus, it becomes imperative to remain fair."
He weighs in on which of the two will fare better at the box office:
Na Maloom Afraad 2 will do well short term as "the reports we're hearing are that it's an average entertainer, on the other hand, Punjab Nahi Jaungi will do well long term as people who have seen it are saying it's a good film, and as it's a love story families will come out to watch it."
He added, "On Eid days there is a different kind of a public that comes [to the cinemas] and it's not the family-oriented public, so initially NMA2 might have an edge but that will not remain there very long. If both films do well during the first week, their collection during the second week will also be divided."
"In my opinion, both will lose," stated Mandviwalla.
With additional reporting by Maliha Rehman