KARACHI: Cinema owners in Punjab are up in arms over the decision to levy a 65 per cent tax on cinemas that screen foreign films. The Cinema Owners Association in Lahore called a press conference this week to address the issue. Zoraiz Lashari, the chairman of the association, said that the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had directed a committee being supervised by Pervez Rasheed to boost cinemas in the province. However, a tax of 65 per cent has been announced.
The Excise Department has also started issuing notifications asking for the payment of the tax. If the tax is not paid on time, the cinemas will be sold off. This move has hit cinema owners in the province. Shehzad Rafique, who directed and produced films such as Ghoonghat and Nikah, is among them. Rafique also owns a cinema in Gujranwala. He told The Express Tribune, “I believe there should be no tax on films. The current amount of tax can certainly not be paid because this has not been budgeted for.
It was only recently that people have begun going to the cinema to watch Indian and Hollywood films. Taxes will only affect cinema houses.” Rafiq believes that during festive season - such as Eid - only a Pakistani film should be displayed in local cinemas, rather than displaying foreign films. However, there is another key issue afoot which has led to a division of sorts between cinema owners and Pakistani film makers. Even though only nine films have been released in the past three years, Pakistani film producers often assert that foreign films must not be shown in Pakistan since they believe these cut into their revenue.
But this is a debatable point, given that the bad quality of Pakistani films led film buffs to stop watching them in the first place, and the only draw for people to go to the cinema has been films like 3 Idiots and My Name is Khan.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAVED YOUSAF
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