Federal B Area, which used to house the city's famous Arshi Cinema, had opened its doors to a similar venue a few years ago, offering its residents the latest Pakistani flicks in their neighbourhood. On Monday night, it lost this cinema to the city administration.
This move follows the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation's (KMC) earlier decision to shut down Sindbad amusement park in Gulshan-e-Iqbal around two weeks ago. The KMC insisted that the cinema was also operating illegally.
"The area was supposed to be a centre for educational and cultural activities but was turned into a cinema," said the statement issued by the KMC. Insiders in the city administration said, however, that the KMC wants to turn the venue into a city council house.
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Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui who has been given the additional charge of the KMC administrator, told The Express Tribune that the company operating the cinema violated KMC's contract. The party to which the land was allotted handed it over to a third party, he pointed out.
Siddiqui defended KMC's ongoing drive against recreational centres on grounds that they are violating city administration rules. He insisted more facilities will be shut down if they are found to be breaking rules. "We need to resolve issues and we may come up with much better centres for recreational activities," he said. Siddiqui did not rule out the possibility of creating a city council house in place of the cinema.
Located before the Ayesha Manzil flyover, Cinepax City Auditorium cinema was catering to a large clientele in North Nazimabad, Nazimabad, Federal B Area, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
Muhammad Ahad remembered his first trip to Cinepax City Auditorium at Ayesha Manzil, when he bunked his classes only to watch the newly released Pakistani movie, Waar, in the year 2013 along with a dozen of his classmates.
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He remembers how his friends managed to get hold of the tickets at the eleventh hour and made their way to the hall. "It was a different experience," he recalled. "We had only heard from our parents of the cinema culture but actually got to experience it when so many fancy cinemas started springing up in the city."
Cinepax general manager Mohsin Yaseen told The Express Tribune that they had been running the cinema for the last three years and regularly used to pay their monthly bills to the KMC. "We have the receipts for the bills we paid," he said. "How can we operate a cinema illegally for three years?"
The company's CEO, Hashim Raza, said this is merely an administrative problem on part of the government and they are ready to challenge this decision in court.
"The government is confused on the issue," he claimed, adding that they are a third party and hold full responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the building. "But this is the way we operate all our cinemas in the entire country," he added.
Raza said they have a licence from the office of District Central deputy commissioner, insisting that this proved their operations were legal. He pointed out that their agreement was valid until the year 2020. As far as their customers are concerned, Raza said they reimbursed all the people who had bought tickets for Monday night's shows.
Meanwhile, professionals associated with films and culture in the city are wary of such moves. The founder of cultural group, Tehreek-i-Niswan, Sheema Kermani, said such decisions affect the film industry. "We need to build centres for recreational activities in the city rather than shut them down," she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2015.