With its charred neon signboard still hanging on to the building as a reminder of that chaotic day, Bambino Cinema will open its doors for the public on Eidul Azha, a month after it was set on fire by a mob during riots against the anti-Islam movie, its owners said on Thursday.
The decision was made to cater to the needs of people who flood the cinemas in the thousands during the holidays as they cannot afford other expensive entertainment venues, said Adeel Imtiaz, the CEO. “We are trying to stand on our feet again. The public will come. I know they will,” he said, during a press conference to mark the re-launch, which had appeared uncertain a few weeks back. “The government, the authorities and the officials have done nothing for us. We have tried to put back the pieces ourselves.”
The cracking sting of wood varnish hung in the lobby as workers painted the wall and fixed the interior. “Up till now we have spent Rs5 million on the internal fixtures, the sound system and the projector,” Imtiaz said.
The badly damaged exterior requires millions of rupees in investment, something that the owners say they cannot afford.
On September 21, a mob went on a rampage damaging public and private property. At least six cinema theatres were gutted, including Bambino, Nishat, Capri and Prince – all popular with people who don’t frequent the new multiplexes where tickets are Rs350 and above.
Bambino’s place in history is unique. Founded by Hakim Ali Zardari, the father of President Asif Ali Zardari, in 1963, it was inaugurated by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Adeel smiled when the fact was raised during the press conference. “Yes, it is part of his (Zardari’s) history as well. But he did not call us or sent any representative to see how the place was doing.”
The Indian movie ‘Rush’ will be showing during Eid. Lollywood’s Sher Dil is also lined up along with James Bond’s ‘Skyfall’. “There is nothing more I want than to show a Pakistani movie first. However, we have to do what the public wants.”
One would have thought that after such a disaster, Bambino would have reopened with fanfare. But that won’t be the case. Sewerage still clogs the road outside that is choked by traffic almost all the time.
“This place is for the masses. The 900 seats here are filled by people who pay Rs60 at the most to buy a ticket,” Adeel said as he took reporters on a tour of the building. “I wish I could do something about the cleanliness around the building. That is the job of the municipal authority.”
Seats in the hall were burned and over 200 of them are being replaced.
Adeel said the new cinemas, which were offering 3D movies were for a different customer. “All such cinemas are coming up in shopping malls. Our theatre is on the roadside.”
Even before the fire devastated the cinema, Bambino was struggling to woo customers with just a handful of good movies to offer. “That is not exactly correct. We were making a comeback. I showed Raaz 3 and it was success,” said Imtiaz.
On Sir Agha Khan Road, many people stop for a while to take a look at the damaged facade, pointing to the billboard featuring Rush in front of the naked windows.
There is little excitement among the staff. “To be honest, I can only hope for a good response. The law and order situation in this city and so many other problems have changed everything over the year,” said Adeel. “Well, we have taken the risk. Now let’s wait and see!”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2012.