More than 10 years have lapsed since the last movie in the Star Wars saga hit cinema screens in Pakistan but a lot has changed from the time Episode III: Revenge of the Sith released in the country. With only a handful of multiplexes present and the now ripe cinema-going culture still finding ground at that time, the film was unable to translate its worldwide success in Pakistan. Looking ahead from the events of 2005, things seem to be shaping a little differently for the empire, as the release of the first instalment in the coveted space-opera’s sequel trilogy draws closer.
Unlike other countries, the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been pushed forward by almost a week in Pakistan, to accommodate two upcoming Bollywood releases, Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Abid Rasheed, executive director of IMGC, explained the motive behind delaying the movie’s release. “The rights for Star Wars’ distribution in the region are held by Disney India and they always release the film a week after its international release,” he said.
This scheduled delay would also allow Indian distributors ample time to ensure that revenues of their local releases don’t suffer. Despite this, Rasheed remains confident that the decision wouldn’t have any bearing on the commercial prospects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “It’s actually releasing on a very good window, which is during winter break, and it should do well.”
Although the movie will hit theatres during holiday season in Pakistan, it will face pressure, releasing between two major film weekends. A week prior to its release, the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Dilwale and Deepika Padukone’s Bajirao Mastani will release in the country simultaneously. A week after the local premiere of Star Wars, Mahira Khan’s Ho Mann Jahaan is also slated to release.
Weighing in on the current scenario, cinema owner and film distributor Nadeem Mandviwalla argued that where previous Star Wars films have been unable to create magic in Pakistan, things may pan out differently if one of the two Bollywood releases fails to live up to its billing. “The demand for Dilwale is higher as compared to that of Bajirao Mastani. Star Wars will release on a holiday weekend [December 25], which may actually help it,” noted Mandviwalla.
On the other hand, the lengthy runtime of Ho Mann Jahaan may pose a problem for cinema owners, something which may in fact work in favour of the space-fantasy. “Owing to the long runtime of Ho Mann Jahaan, cinema owners may need to couple it with a movie with the shortest duration, from which Star Wars could stand to gain.” Where previous instalments of the Star Wars series have not fared well, including its 3D re-release in 2012, Mandviwalla feels such a film requires ample promotion to do well in the country.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet to be censored, the exact number of screens it’s expected to release on remains unclear. Should Hindi-dubbed prints arrive on time, the movie will be screened across approximately 65 to 70 cinema screens, but a delay in that could possibly force the Distribution Club to bag only 50 to 55 screens.
Rasheed is hopeful about the box office draw for the movie, expecting it to earn around Rs100 million in local cinemas during its lifetime. According to Mandviwalla, the lion’s share of its box office earnings is most likely going to be generated through IMAX cinemas.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2015.