The blanket ban on Indian films by cinema owners in Pakistan amidst rising tensions with India would boost piracy and badly hit local cinemas which generate 50-60 per cent of the revenue from screening Bollywood films, industry insiders say.
Last week, Pakistani cinema hall owners declared an indefinite ban on the screening of Indian films after the Indian film association’s ban on Pakistani actors amidst rising tension between the two countries following the Uri terror attack.
Though local cinema owners stand in solidarity with Pakistan, they say that such bans are bad for both nations, Dawn newspaper reported.
Khorem Gultasab, General Manager of SuperCinema, Lahore, said although 50-60 per cent of the revenue generation came from Bollywood films alone, the decision to suspend Indian films was an “instant agreement” from local stakeholders.
“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,” he said.
Now that re-runs of old Pakistani films are hitting cinemas along with current films, the Gultasab said that Pakistani cinemas cannot survive on Pakistani films alone.
“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?”
Like many, Gultasab too hopes the ban will be 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, called the resolution passed by the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (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.”
“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 said, “It will hurt them, it will hurt us. It will hurt legitimate business stake holders. The winner is the pirate.”
Although he said there had been no decrease in footfall in cinemas yet, however, “if the suspension is prolonged, it’ll result in hurting cinemas here”.
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.