After the success of the Atrium Cinema in Saddar, its owners are planning to open another at the Sofitel Tower and Mall in Clifton in a few months. The hotel is still under construction but at a rapid pace.
“Karachi is like virgin territory, we can open up at least 30 cinemas in the city and they would be successful,” gushed film distributor Nadeem Mandviwala who started the Atrium venture. “There is a demand for it so why shouldn’t we provide it?”
Indeed, the Atrium has done good business, winning over sceptics who pooh-poohed its location: Saddar. For Mandviwala, the location was not as important as the opportunity to run a modern cinema complex. “The original layout for Atrium Cinema included two screens and an auditorium. The opportunity was good and we decided to add another screen and make it better,” he said. “The traffic and parking concerns were present. A lot of people told us, you’re opening a cinema in Saddar, who will go watch a movie there. Look at it now. On Monday mornings we usually have 500 people! It is madness!”
Mandviwala assesses that in the past people did not like watching movies at the cinema because of the claustrophobic environment. “Today, the cinema culture has picked up worldwide and is creating a strong base in Pakistan,” he said. “We have experimented with cinemas in Karachi before and have received a good response from the people. They are attracted to new cinema technology.”
Although the technology is expensive, it costs roughly Rs50 million per 3D screen, there are people who want to invest in the market. “The equipment is available but since there is no infrastructure to support the technology, we suffer,” he added. “Our technicians are somewhat naïve when it comes to digital technology and theatre.”
One of the Atrium’s challenges have been breakdowns. If one of the programmes or part of the screen malfunctions then they have to send it abroad to get fixed. “The products we use do not have a customer service department in Karachi or Pakistan,” remarks Mandviwalla. But hopefully, with time, these challenges too will be overcome.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.