Stakeholders tense over dwindling number of films

Revenue might have increased in 2018 but the number of local releases had declined

Adnan Lodhi January 05, 2019

LAHORE: The year 2018 may have been great in terms of the revenue generated by Pakistani films but unfortunately, that came with a price: the number of films releasing in the country has declined over the last 12 months.

As per industry insiders, a totally of 38 Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto films got the green light in 2018, as compared to 47, 51 and 43 in 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively. The dwindling numbers have had local exhibitors and distributors in a rut as there is an excess demand of films that they must somehow overcome.

Throughout 2018, the audience was treated to a host of Pakistani films from a variety of genres. There was ample drama in the form of Motorcyle Girl, Cake and Parwaaz Hay Junoon. And when one felt like watching something light, we had Teefa in Trouble and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 on offer. All of these not only fared well with the audience but also impressed critics and stakeholder, giving Pakistani cinema a much-needed boost.

Eid holidays were particularly beneficial for the box office. Eidul Fitr saw about 12 Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto films hit theatres while another six came forth on Eidul Azha, most of which fared decently. Out of the overall 38 that were released in 2018, 21 films were in Urdu while 10 were in Pashto and six in Punjabi.

Yet, distributors and exhibitors are dissatisfied as the overall number of films being made and released has declined. To them, this is a bad omen for the coming years. “At the moment, the situation is such that many new digital cinemas are being constructed in big cities across Pakistan and the number of screens has almost doubled. But the film business is slow,” senior producer Haji Zulfiqar Mana told The Express Tribune. “At this rate, we should be released at least two big films every month but that’s not happening. There are thousands of people whose livelihood is directly linked to films and the government needs to take that into consideration. I want to request the government to take steps to secure those employed in the film industry, like they did earlier.  For instance, not screening Indian films around Eid was a great idea.”

It is pertinent to mention the competition from Bollywood – an important topic of discussion amongst stakeholders, many of whom support banning Indian releases. “It’s true that there was a decline in the number of films released in 2018 but the business has been better than it was in 2017. And if you ask me, the main reason for that was utilising Eid holidays well,” a senior member of the Distribution Club said on the condition of anonymity. “Besides this, Indian films – Sanju, in particular – gave Pakistani cinemas a lot of footfall. One thing is clear: when we don’t have enough of our films, we cannot help but rely on Indian films to keep the business afloat.”

The official further said that stakeholders’ will naturally be tense about the current situation as they have invested millions of rupees in the industry. “They are particularly worried due to the demand for a ban on Indian films. I think we need the government to step up and do something to safeguard the industry.”

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