National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) allowed the opening of cinema houses across the country, issuing fresh instructions including strict adherence to SOPs, as well as mandatory vaccinations of staff and patrons.
Cinemas were ordered shut last year in the month of March after the first few Covid-19 cases were reported in the country. After a brief opening, cinemas were shut once again during the peak of the fourth wave.
According to the NCOC, cinemas and shrines are now allowed to operate from today, October 16, till October 31, with a further course of action to be decided in a meeting to be held on October 28.
Similar to the situation across the world, the local film industry suffered massive losses with the closure of cinemas, with some now faced with a permanent closure due to financial constraints.
Owners had been demanding the opening of cinemas, but the NCOC remained firm in its decision, allowing only for a brief opening before a subsequent shut down due to rising Covid cases.
Now, with cinema houses set to operate normally, stakeholders are expecting the upcoming Christmas season to improve the situation, since currently no local films are slated for a release.
"We appreciate the decision and are also very happy. Surely the situation will be better soon. We are in the same boat as the rest of the world, and like other film industries, ours has also suffered, but now the situation is improving across the world with cinemas reopening,” shared Ch Ejaz Kamran Chairman Film Distributors Association of Pakistan with The Express Tribune.
He added further, “It is time that all the stakeholders sit together and decide on a strategy to release films and also convince producers in order to get further funding. In the past, we have proven that the future of cinema is bright in the country, and now the time has come that we move forward with the strength to revive the cinema industry of Pakistan."
"There are many producers that were working on different projects, with their films sitting there all complete. However, the fact of the matter is that, at the moment, no one will come forward, and we’ll have to wait weeks till we see any local releases,” explained a senior official at a distribution club. They added, “We, at the moment, have no films and now when NCOC has allowed the opening of cinema houses, we will negotiate and good films will release at the end of this year.”
Speaking about how Lahore will be the hub of cinema revival, Senior lyricist Altaf Bajwa shared, "Lahore was once the hub of the film industry, and after the opening of cinemas, the cinema revival will start from Lahore as well since many local Punjabi film producers are willing to release their films. Although these are small budget films, they will attract viewers to cinema houses. Surely, in the future, big films will come as well.”
According to insider details, most cinemas across the country plan on resuming regular operation from October 22 to October 29. The first films to be screened will the highly-anticipated sci-fi feature Dune, as well as Venom: Let There be Carnage. While Nuplex cinema in Karachi is currently reassessing its opening strategy, the cinema within Atrium Mall will be functional within a week or two.
In addition to the opening of cinemas on account of a low-risk outlook of the disease, the forum lifted the mandatory restriction of one-day weekly closure of the markets across the country as well, and allowed the reopening of shrines for vaccinated individuals.
However, despite the big improvement in the pandemic situation, Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, warned in a tweet that vaccination was the key to beat the Covid pandemic, otherwise the cases could increase in the upcoming winter season.
“According to survey, 86% of the people think that the corona[virus] will be overcome soon. We are grateful for this public trust, but it will only be possible if people get vaccinated as soon as possible. Otherwise, there is a risk of increase in the spread of corona[virus] with the cold weather,” he said.
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