The Sindh High Court has ordered that local films must get 85 per cent of playing time at Pakistani cinemas.
An order issued by the high court on May 19 says foreign films will not be exhibited over 15 per cent as per the law of the land, Images learnt in an exclusive. The development comes as a new twist in what was once the passive-voiced skirmish between Pakistani filmmakers and cinema owners (ie exhibitors) over domestic films versus Hollywood releases.
According to the high court order, foreign film releases will have to abide by rules of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979, which states that internationally produced films imported to Pakistan can only have 15 per cent screen space if domestically produced films are also showing in cinemas.
The Sindh High Court suits numbering 754, 754 and 755 have as plaintiffs Cereal Entertainment (Adnan Siddiqui and Akhter Hasnain’s company), Wajahat Rauf and Shazia Wajahat, and Farid Nawaz Productions (Yasir Nawaz and Nida Yasir), for their films Dum Mastam, Parde Mein Rehne Do and Chakkar.
The 12 defendants in the suits include the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Central Board of Film Censors, Punjab Film Censor Board, Sindh Board of Film Censors, Competition Commission of Pakistan, J.B. Films, Nueplex Cinemas, Cinepax Cinemas, Cinegold Cinemas, HKC Entertainment and the Karachi District South deputy commissioner.
The ruling directed the defendants to follow the rules of the Motion Picture Ordinance “strictly in letter and spirit” and to provide 85 per cent playing time to Pakistani films till the next date of hearing on June 2.
The June 6 date only effects the shows of Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and a handful of other releases like the Nicolas Cage starrer The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Liam Neeson starrer Memory, and Tom Cruise’s tentpole Top Gun: Maverick, which opens on May 27.
Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness was already expected to slide at the box office in any case from this week onward, which likely would increase the number of shows for Pakistani films, if, that is, there was a demand from the audience.
The suits call for compensation of damages to filmmakers. However, one can assume that if the law of limiting 15 per cent screens to foreign films is forced onto cinema owners — and that cinema owners do not retaliate — the real winners of the case would likely be the makers of Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad, London Nahi Jaunga and any other filmmaker who has a film coming out this Eidul Azha.