In a time when entertainment is easily had, residents of Gilgit have been deprived of a cinema since the mid-2000s, when the last hall in the city was dismantled to make way for a commercial plaza.
“The business has fallen on hard times in light of the current disinterest in Pakistani cinema,” Nasir Khan told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. Khan served as an operator at Naseem Cinema for a decade before it was shut down in mid 2005. “The reason for its closure was the continuous downfall of the film business in Gilgit,” he said, adding that films were run thrice a day, but ticket sales were unsatisfactory, forcing the owners to put the property to more profitable use.
Until the early 90s, Gilgit had three cinemas, offering much needed entertainment to hundreds of people every day. However following the technology boom, the industry lost its charm, with pirated DVDs and now, downloaded pirated movies serving as cheaper, and some would say superior, replacements. As the decline continued, the Garrison Cinema Hall was the first to go, merged into the Army Public School building in Khomer. Similarly, Rux Cinema on Hospital Road was dismantled in early 2000 to build a series of shops. Naeem Cinema Hall fell victim to the same fate in mid-2000. A commercial plaza was erected in its place, and later rented out to a commercial bank and a hotel.
“I remember the days when we used to go to Naeem Film Hall every week to watch Pakistani movies,” Imtiaz Wali, 42, a businessman living in Kashrote, recalled.
Wali said that the turnout at cinemas had declined in the following years as people turned to alternatives like video cassette screenings in various hotels and houses in the city. “You had the facility of an Indian movie plus a cup of tea just for Rs5, so people just opted for that instead of a Pakistani movie which was comparatively costly,” he added.
Ibrahim, a resident of Ghizer District who now runs a shop in Gilgit, said that whenever he visited Gilgit in his youth, watching a film was a must. “Gone are those days. All that’s left now are the memories.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2011.