ISLAMABAD: With some of the most awaited releases of the year being shelved worldwide in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the year 2020 has been absolutely devastating for the international cinema industry. However, for a country like Pakistan which manically slates its biggest releases for Eidul Fitr, hoping to bank on the holiday crowd’s eagerness to splurge on movie tickets, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
According to a leading film distributor Nadeem Mandviwala, the last two months in lockdown have broken the local cinema industry’s back and left little to be hopeful for.
“Eid days are usually the most sought after dates for film releases in Pakistan, which is also when the local cinema industry makes most business. However, this year, the global coronavirus pandemic has postponed all releases slated for Eid, be it from Hollywood, Bollywood or Lollywood, which has left the cinema industry in dire straits,” he shared.
Whereas on the other hand, the pandemic has also put a damper on the spirits of film enthusiasts and cinemagoers and left many feeling apprehensive about the big screen. “I am a huge Marvel fan and had been counting days till the release of the movie Black Widow, until it was postponed to November.
However, I doubt the virus is going away anytime soon and I am not sure if it will be safe to go to a cinema in the coming months,” expressed Saira, a resident of Rawalpindi. Similarly, Ibrahim, a third-year engineering student from Islamabad believes that the government’s decision to close cinemas during the pandemic was a wise call to make amid current scenario. “I was actually quite looking forward to watching The Legend of Maula Jatt with my siblings this Eid, but even if the cinemas were open and the release wasn’t postponed I would have never gone considering how contagious the virus is. I think we should be responsible citizens and avoid all public gatherings until the government has found a way to deal with the disease.”
However, speaking to The Express Tribune Mandviwala shared that shutting cinemas completely is not the logical answer to the pandemic. According to the distributor, cinemas in the country pay as much as Rs4, 000,000 in rent every month, for which expenses have to be met and movie tickets have to be sold. “Developing a digital computerized cinema costs between Rs20 million to Rs30 million and there is a lot of advanced machinery involved. If cinemas continue to remain shut over a prolonged period, there is a risk that lot of expensive equipment will be damaged due to non-usage.
Who will cover our losses if something like that happens?” he questioned. “Even if the government allows screening films to a limited audience under its SOPs, the cinemas will still be incurring losses on account of utility payments, electricity charges and employee salaries. This is a huge industry and something better needs to be planned for it if it is to survive the age of coronavirus,” he asserted.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.