Violence, targeted killings, strikes and protests are some of the words that seem to have replaced Karachi’s long-held description: the city of lights.
But parallel to this non-stop violence and feeling of insecurity, there exists a huge demand for entertainment businesses. In other words, the country’s largest metropolitan city continues to offer business opportunities for those willing to take risks and bet money on this consumer base of 20 million people.
Success of the Dolphin Show – a recent addition to the city’s recreational spots – clearly reflects people’s growing appetite for every entertainment opportunity that offers a temporary escape from an otherwise tense city.
The programme’s chief engineer and one of the performers – both Russians – are not only performing publicly but also exploring the city during breaks. They have also visited places commonly referred to as no-go areas, according to an official.
Exploring Karachi alone may not be a good enough reason to visit the city. They are here for business of course.
The fun-filled show – that features colourful performances by a sea lion, a whale and a dolphin – has a capacity to host up to 3,000 people. Over one-and-a-half-month old, it continues to attract decent traffic, roughly 75% of the seating capacity as witnessed by the writer, even on working days. The weekend traffic is certainly higher.
Exact figures for the business could not be collected. However, based on average turnover per show, the programme has so far grossed over Rs80 million (on the conservative side) and might continue for another month before moving to other cities.
“We get Rs600,000 to Rs800,000 in ticket sales for a single show,” the programme’s General Manager Finance and Marketing Ali Raza told The Express Tribune.
The turnover range includes both the weekday and weekend traffic. However, if the average amount per show is taken into account, this translates into Rs2.1 million a day (based on three shows a day) and at least Rs84 million since January 16 when it opened for the public – excluding Mondays when there is no show.
Though satisfied with the city’s response to the show, Raza says it is good but not ideal. Observers, however, say the show has been a big success. The organisers have kept the ticket prices (Rs550 for adults and Rs350 for children) well below international standards for a dolphin show of this calibre, the observers say, their revenues, therefore, may not be a true reflection of the traffic they attracted.
Raza didn’t share the breakdown of costs or profit margins. But security costs involved cannot be ignored in organising such a programme. The Dolphin Show, too, has multiple layers of security checks both manual and technological and an army of guards to manage a large crowd.
Though a good example, the Dolphin Show is not the only entertainment business that has tasted success amid all the violence and bad news coming out of the city.
The cinema business – the most popular form of entertainment – has already made it big in recent times. Waar, the highest grossing Pakistani movie, made more than Rs230 million in just three months last year and the Indian movie Dhoom 3 is said to be doing even better.
Though there is a lot of demand for entertainment and recreation in the city, there exists a huge gap in terms of supply.
There are a lot of things that can be done on the entertainment side, Raza said. “It’s about time we move beyond the Lucky Irani Circus and introduce new concepts along international standards.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2014.
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