Nadeem Mandviwalla, distributor of The Legend of Maula Jatt and owner of Atrium cinemas, held a press conference on Thursday to address the controversy surrounding the film, the ticket price hike and cinema houses not screening the film.
Maula Jatt promised to be a cinematic masterpiece before it was even released. It is a big budget film filled with some of the biggest names in our entertainment industry, which is why it was a big shock when it did not release in some of the biggest cinemas in Pakistan. Mandviwalla addressed the media saying, “I want to shed light on some things. For some days, a controversy has been brewing and there have also been speculations on it — there are different kinds of rumours.
“Two months ago, the Maula Jatt team hired me as distributor. After we established a professional relationship, their first question for me was that Nadeem bhai, we have created the film — if you have watched it, you know how it looks, there has never been such a film created in Pakistan nor can we think of making one at such a level. But they had already made it. For them the biggest [issue] was how to maximise it. Pakistan has only a few cinemas — what strategy can be used so our returns are maximised and people can go watch the film easily?” he questioned.
He painted a picture for the audience to make them understand where he was coming from and assured them he understood the position of other cinema owners too. “You all know a long period of Covid just passed and for a year and a half, cinemas were closed, which caused a lot of loss. I, myself, am a cinema owner and faced a lot of loss. So it is not that we didn’t realise that cinemas have suffered damages and have financial liabilities now, we knew.”
Then entered Mandviwalla’s need for a plan. “I told them one thing, ‘Look, whenever something big has been created, it is important to use a big strategy to work with it.’ But in that strategy, I don’t want to do anything that might harm someone else. If I come to you and tell you to give me 40 out of the 100 you earn and keep 60, you will be at loss. After that, we gathered six [major] groups in Pakistan who have a share that is over 10%. What we told cinemas back then is that we don’t want to dictate how they operate their business or tell them to change their terms. We singled out only one thing and asked for an increased share by 10 per cent,” he said.
He explained that if the producers are getting 50 per cent and the cinema owners are getting 50 per cent, you add 20 to the 100 and they still get 50 per cent each but a bigger share than before. He said it may seem like a small change but all the cinemas combined would account for a big change for the producers.
Mandviwalla said compared to Hollywood and Bollywood where there are over a 1,000 screens, Pakistan has not even a 100. This means that an average film does well in the former two while even a good film performs average here. “Which is why we increased the rates. We came up with a plan where the choice is the cinema owners’, not ours. We won’t dictate anything either, we would ask them to contribute a little and they wouldn’t have an issue with it.”
The distributor handed out a paper that listed two options for cinemas to choose from that contained terms and conditions discussing shares, perks and restrictions. It barred cinemas from playing any other local film for 11 days and set the same time period for the price hike.
“The six big players I mentioned, three agreed and three didn’t. I think every business owner has the right to choose, they were not pressurised. My job was to explain, the rest is up to them,” he said.
Commenting on the issue that arose when of 38 exhibitors, only four remained and requested for flexibility in the terms, Mandviwalla said it was not possible to change this after making agreements with 34 others, it would have resulted in too big a financial loss.
“The goal was Rs1 billion for which you need to earn Rs400 to 500 million in the first eight days. The only thing that helped us was a price hike. According to our calculations, it would make Rs1.2 billion in the first 11 days. If it makes even just 40 or 50 per cent of that, our target will be achieved,” he explained the logic behind the increase in prices for a set amount of time.
On Monday, Nueplex released its official statement saying that the reason it hasn’t released in the cinema is because the distributors are demanding terms that have ‘out of industry norms’. “Such rigid terms cannot be afforded by exhibitors, especially during times of economic instability,” they wrote.
The Legend of Maula Jatt made $2.3m at global box office in its opening weekend. It was released worldwide on over 500 screens across 25 countries, making it the highest and widest ever release for any Pakistani film yet. It ranked number one at the UAE Box Office, number six in Canada, number eight in Australia and number nine in the UK.
A reboot of Yunus Malik’s 1979 cult classic Maula Jatt, the film is a re-telling the story of the rivalry between Maula Jatt and Noori Natt.
Directed by Bilal Lashari, The Legend of Maula Jatt stars Fawad Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Mahira Khan, Humaima Malick, Mirza Gohar Rasheed, Faris Shafi, Ali Azmat, Nayyer Ejaz, Shafqat Cheema, Raheela Agha, Zia Khan and Saima Baloch. The Punjabi film is being produced by Ammara Hikmat’s Encyclomedia and Lashari Films. The distribution will be done by Nadeem Mandviwalla under Mandviwalla Entertainment.
The big-budget film has faced several delays and is finally being released after production was begun in 2017.