While Quetta may have experienced its share of ups and downs with the culmination of the first ever Pakistan Super League, it seems the city will now get to see more drama, tragedy, and even other genres, on a curved screen, said to be the biggest in Pakistan.
The provincial metropolis is gearing up for its first multiplex, Weplex Pak Force Cinema, set to open doors to the public on March 4. The very promising project, which is being valued at around Rs100 million, is the brainchild of film distributor Jahanzaib Khan. Investing an exorbitant amount of money in an untapped market like Quetta might seem a bit too risky to the tender-hearted, but Khan feels it is an acknowledgement of the city’s potential.
“Up until a few weeks ago, before Quetta Gladiators came into prominence, people considered the city as a backward area with just mountains. Well the truth is that life here has been moving on. Even the security situation is showing signs of improvement,” he tells The Express Tribune.
Brimming with confidence, Khan says he was on the lookout for a suitable location for the cinema, before he found the perfect place. “The location is ideal and very secure, within the limits of Quetta cantonment.” With as many as 0.3 million people living in the suburb and the strict security protocols enforced by cantonment administration, Khan has little to worry about.
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In terms of return-on-investment, he feels the cinema will prove to be a resounding success and gain popularity with the residents of Quetta. “People in Quetta have been deprived of quality entertainment for so long. They have no place to visit for enjoyment,” he says. He admits things might be different in the rest of the country but cinema business in Quetta has always been a tricky one. Citing the examples of the city’s popular single-screen cinemas, Paradise and Imdad, he says, “Even now, they run only one show every day with hardly anyone in attendance.”
However, Weplex Pak Force Cinema, in his opinion, will not only be a game-changer for mainstream films in Balochistan but also benefit regional cinema in the long haul. With only a few days to go before showtime, the place has already become an attraction of sorts, with inquisitive onlookers already scouting the theatre. “People are showing up in large numbers, asking about the facility and requesting tours ... so much so that we had to seal the gates so that they don’t barge in.”
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Described as a multiplex, the 3D cinema will begin operations with a single screen hall that has a seating capacity of 300. On the other hand, work is still under way on its Gold Theatre which will have 100 seats. Should these two halls do well, is there room for expansion? Khan responds, “Yes! Let’s see ... for now we are going step-by-step.”
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including Dolby Digital Sound 7.1, the cinema has a curved screen, measuring 15ft in height and 34ft in width. “The record for the largest screen in Pakistan was previously held by The Arena, Lahore,” he maintains.
Although the cinema is yet to start functioning, news of its development has already reached Quetta’s film fraternity, which is buoyant to say the least. Celebrated television and film actor Ayub Khosa says the cinema will introduce a new celebrity culture in the province. “Imagine the premieres of local films taking place in Quetta and celebrities coming to the red carpet,” he says.
Enthusiastic film-makers have already begun dialling Khan’s number, requesting him to allow their films the honour of being the first to be screened at the multiplex. “A few days ago, I received a call from Jami who asked if we could show Moor at Weplex given its Quetta-centric story. Nabeel Qureshi and Humayun Saeed made similar offers with Na Maloom Afraad and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani,” recalls the cinema-owner. Khan even states a Quetta premiere of the Mohib Mirza and Sanam Saeed-starrer Bachaana is on the cards.
Although Weplex is Quetta’s first multiplex, if things go according to plan, Khan will soon put into motion a plan of building another one in the heart of the city.
Who knows; maybe in a few years time, a movie on the success of Quetta Gladiators might premiere at Weplex itself!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2016.
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