LAHORE: Pakistan’s cinema industry is currently experiencing one of the worst financial hits to date. Stakeholders, including distributors, exhibitors, and producers are sufferings due to dwindling numbers of cinema-going audiences.
Distributors that were previously engaged with the release of Bollywood films are among those who have suffered the most. There is a lot at stake, especially the investment made by numerous distributors for Indian films.
Following the ban on Bollywood films, stake holders are now compelled to rely on upcoming Hollywood films, particularly Avengers: Endgame. Other than that, it's the forthcoming Eidul Fitr season that may provide some financial relief but there's another month and a half to that.
“How can we run the business when certain films have been banned? How are suppose to carry on? There are no films available for us to screen. I know that there are Hollywood films that are improving the situation for us right now however that's not going to be enough in the long run. Yet, we are hopeful," Managing Director Atrium and Centaurus cinema, Nadeem Mandiwala told The Express Tribune.
Both multiplex and single screen cinema owners are going through a very difficult time due to the lack of available software. Especially those who have invested billions in the construction of digital cinemas in Pakistan. “The overall situation is quite bad and we are forced to take desperate measures to sustain our business," said Cine Star Cinema owner Ali Chaudhary. "I think there should be some sort of relief for us. I mean we can't run a whole business on films that people are not interested in watching. We won't survive in the long run."
There are currently three local films including Sherdil, Laal Kabootar and Project Ghazi playing in cinemas across the country. Sources told The Express Tribune that only Sherdil has managed to perform well at the box office, garnering a revenue of around Rs80 million while Laal Kabootar and Project Ghazi have made around Rs20 million each - thus failing to fulfill the expectations of cinema owners and distributors.
“It's very hard for us distributors at the moment, especially from a financial point of view as our investment is at stake," a senior official of Distribution Club told The Express Tribune. "There are only a few people coming to cinema halls and a number of multiplexes have already shut down some screens in order to save on expenses. How exactly are we going to survive this chaos in absence of Bollywood films? Well, your guess is as good as mine."
However the chairman of the Pakistan Film Distributors Association Chaudhry Ejaz Kamran blamed cinema owners for not prioritising local films earlier. “These cinema owners have never preferred local films in the past and would always give preference to international films meaning Pakistani films weren't given enough show slots. They are suffering because of their own blunders."
Kamran went on to state that cinema owners were always late on their payments to producers and distributors in the past. As a result, no one is willing to invest in the local films today. "But one thing is clear - if we want to survive in this industry, we need to be united and focus on strengthening the local film industry. Therefore, it is important that payments are released to distributors and producers on time."
The non-payment of dues by cinema owners is an issue that a number of producers and distributors have raised before. It was one of the reasons why Captain Marvel saw a delayed release in Pakistan. Having said, will passing the buck save us from the crises we created ourselves? Not really.
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