The Luxury Audiplex Theatre at Lahore’s Royal Palm Theatre Complex, is a glimpse into the future as it marks the introduction of E-cinema in Pakistan. E-cinema, which is one of the two forms of technology invented to distribute motion pictures — the other being D cinema — is shown through a digital projector, which allows for high definition film-viewing.
“This is the future,” explains Imran Idris Mufti, the Head of the Knowledge Scape Centre at the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club. Mufti, who supervised the construction of the new theatre, is now regarded as an expert on cinema.
Mufti is hopeful that this technological wave will bring new opportunities for Lollywood — which is a declining industry right now. Not only will the digital format curb piracy with the help of encryption coding, it will also cut costs of making films. “In E-cinema, the films are provided in digital form and are encrypted. This enables the distributor to keep a strong check on the viewership of the film.”
The concept of E-cinema was introduced in India years ago. However, in Pakistan, aside from the Atrium Cinemas in Karachi, a majority of the cinema spaces are stuck to traditional film projectors.
While speaking about the future of film, Mufti explains that there is a conscious effort being made on a global level to improve the state of the film medium. He said that six leading companies including Sony and Disney have introduced the concept of high-definition (HD).
According to research conducted in India, by the end of 2012 the country will expect to have at least 280 cinemas with complete digital packages and 800 individual screens with digital 3D technology all over the country. For this reason, most Bollywood films have adopted this format.
Unlike other cinemas in Pakistan, which have the capacity to accommodate 100 persons, Luxury Audiplex boasts a degree of exclusivity, confirmed Mufti as the cinema has 35 seats only and caters to club members. The interior is tastefully furnished with leather La-Z Boy chairs and soundproof walls covered with velvet to suit the lavish tastes and preferences of its elitist target audience.
The prestige of Royal Palm Golf and Country Club is an added Unique Selling Point (USP) of the cinema. Many drama producers have also asked the administration to allow exclusive screenings and launches of drama serials and short documentaries. The cinema schedules four to five screenings a day and offers the option of film screenings on request.
According to Mufti, the quality of screenings at Luxury Audiplex is comparable to any high-end theatre abroad.
However, the technology has its costs, explains Mufti, who had to hire an in-house team to diagnose any faults that may occur in the system. “It can be expensive at times but we know the value of digital media in the long-term.”
Despite the advent of new technology and a growing number of new directors such as Bilal Lashari experimenting with the digital technology, Pakistani film industry seems to be reluctant to experiment. The main issue is that film is an expensive medium and to make it viable in the country, people will have to invest more in the infrastructure. So far, there are no e-prints available in Pakistan and even a pioneer like Bol was shot on film.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.