Prince Cinema is still cooking slowly from the inside. It had one of Pakistan’s largest theatres, one that could seat up to 1,100 people. But all of that has been roasted into a heap of iron, wood and insulation foam.
The last movie it featured eight months back was Mission Impossible 4.
Muhammad Sohail Ahmed, who owns it, says the building had faced the wrath of the protestors before. “But they would just break windows and throw some rocks. What kind of followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were these people?”
The roof is in a precarious condition and there are cracks in two floors. The estimated loss ranges from Rs120 million to Rs150 million.
In the same vicinity was Nishat Cinema’s supervisor Syed Masihul Hasan who has worked there for 42 years. He cried inconsolably and hugged anyone who came to talk to him – even gawking bystanders.
“For eight years after 9/11, the cinema remained closed. But the owners fired none of us. They kept paying our salary until it was finally destroyed,” he told The Express Tribune.
Pakistani cinemas came back to life after the prohibition on Indian movies was lifted. At least five of them were targeted by a mob of men, many believed to be from the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, on Friday as protests raged against an anti-Islam film.
Inside Nishat, the management said nothing has survived. The roof has collapsed and everything has been turned to ash. “The loss is close to Rs100 million,” said Hasan.
Right next to the cinema is a Sindh Bank branch. “They broke open the iron grille and started beating me,” said Muhammad Saleem, the security guard. “They just used foul language and kept thrashing me.”
The vault survived but everything else – from the stationery, desks, and computers to the chairs – is missing.
Industry officials say none of the cinemas except Nishat were insured.
Nadeem Mandviwala, who has a stake in Nishat, says the question remains if any of the sponsors have the finances to run the business again. “Insurance cover will give us Rs15 million at the most. It will take around Rs150 million to bring the place back to its feet. I don’t if we could do that.”
The cinema owners are contemplating a press conference in a few days.
At Capri Cinema, one of the employees said that he had been guarding the building when the mob arrived. “They hit me with one of these rods,” he said. “I had to run to save my life. Then they burnt everything down.” They came prepared with bolt cutters.
32 Bambino off MA Jinnah Rd
33 Capri off MA Jinnah Rd
34 Nishat off MA Jinnah Rd
35 Gulistan in Landhi
36 Nargis in Qauidabad
37 Prince off MA Jinnah Rd
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.