ISLAMABAD: The cinema screen faded to black off and the lights turned on for hundreds of moviegoers who remained seated to watch another show. A number of police officials marched through aisles of the cinema, escorting out people who had come to watch an action movie on a slow Saturday afternoon in Ramazan.
The officials did not give any explanation to enraged moviegoers that were asked to vacate the hall.
The operation, led by Islamabad Assistant Deputy Commissioner Abdul Sattar Esani, managed to clear out the crowd within minutes while arresting five members of the cinema administration — the manager, supervisor, IT in-charge and director of the cinema.
Esani explained that the cinema was sealed for violating the Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, which prohibits screening of movies and restaurants operating during fasting hours. He said the administration had received two public complaints against the cinema.
The law, however, only states, “Cinema houses…shall remain closed during the month of Ramazan from the time of sunset to the expiration of three hours thereafter”.
Under the ordinance, a violator can be fined Rs5,000 and could be arrested for as long as six months. The authorities, Eesani says, also warned some 20 restaurants in the capital this month.
The cinema had regularly been showing movies throughout Ramazan, much like other cinemas in metropolises across the country.
A member of the cinema administration questioned why the operation was launched just before the launch of the new Bollywood flick ‘Kick’. “There could be a possibility of owners’ politics. ‘Kick’ is expected to be the biggest revenue earner this Eid,” said the official.
Hundreds of movie goers had pre-booked for the movie’s Eid day launch shows.
Those who were forced to leave the hall on Saturday got a refund on Sunday. The cinema officials have also been released on bail.
A cinema official told The Express Tribune that the cinema will reopen on Monday, showing movies as scheduled. Esani, however, said it will remain shut until further notice.
After the raid, many took to the social media to denounce the cinema’s closure.
“This is ridiculous,” said Amina Shah, a regular at the cinema. “We only have one cinema in the city. Many had booked shows for the Eid days. The administration should reopen the cinema at the earliest.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014.