Karachi’s cinema buffs have been criticising Universal Cineplex for showing pirated prints. According to reports received by The Express Tribune, pirated versions of Milenge Milenge and Knight and Day are allegedly being shown at the venue.
Andleeb Rana, the editor of Xpoze magazine, told The Express Tribune, “I went to see Knight and Day and it was a horrible print. You could see people walking across the screen in the print and there were weird noises. The film had been chopped abruptly and it didn’t appear like they had taken out intimate scenes, it was random. To add to the experience, you get stale popcorn and have to pay for an expensive ticket. I believe that last year, the Harry Potter print was also pirated.”
Another Karachiite had the same complaint with Knight and Day. Nadir Hassan said, “I could have sat at home and downloaded a better print and watched it on my TV. The sound was muffled, the movie was choppy and popcorn is still outrageously expensive.”
The problems are not restricted to the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer.
“We decided to watch Milenge Milenge, thinking it would be a decent movie. It wasn’t. On the top of it, the print was clearly pirated with blurred picture quality. The colour around the corners was fading. Same was the case with Housefull for which they made us wait for half an hour to start the show as there were few people in the audience. It wasn’t any other cinema. We’re talking about Cineplex, which charges Rs350 for a ticket and Rs70 for a glass of coke,” said Anis Yousuf, a frequent visitor to Universal Cineplex.
Cineplex’s management denies claims that pirated prints are screened.
Kaiser Rafiq, the director for Cineplex’s operations told The Express Tribune, “We show films on 35mm. It is not pirated at all. It is not a DVD. There is a strict check. We get it directly from the distributors. We are exhibitors just like Capri, Nishat and Prince.”
While several of Karachi’s cinemas have been shut down, turned into plazas or fallen on seedier times, cinemas such as Cineplex aimed to bring in a more upmarket clientele. While Nishat and Capri have conducted extensive renovations to bring crowds back, Cineplex caters to a crowd that does not want to make the trek to MA Jinnah Road, where these cinemas are located.
Incorporating comfortable seating and air conditioning, Cineplex brought a luxurious feel to the movie-watching experience in Karachi.
Established in 2003, the cinema was designed to cater to families. It does not allow single males to enter and there are strict checks to ensure visitors do not bring in their own food.
But with poor maintenance, one wonders how long Universal Cineplex will continue to be a key facet of Karachi’s entertainment scene, particularly when there are projects of 3D cinemas and two new cineplex are in the pipeline.
Universal Cineplex shows four to five movies simultaneously on five different screens and charges higher ticket prices than regular cinemas.
However, paying more no longer means better standards, be it in terms of the film quality or overall hygiene. The bathrooms, for example, present a dirty picture of dark corners with no basic facilities like toilet paper.
“It is a glorified TV screen with poor sound system that makes the place highly undesirable to my taste,” says a regular moviegoer who finds Nishat Cinema’s sound system much better.
But even with the issues cited above, Karachiites continue to visit Cineplex due to the limited options of entertainment available in the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2010.