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Perth
May 26, 2019
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How to Save the Sinking Cinema Industry in Pakistan

With the release of Avengers: Endgame, the cinema industry in Pakistan has received the Oxygen supply it was searching for, for the last couple of months. The distributors, exhibitors and filmmakers might feel more Pakistani by banning Indian films but the truth is, even the most patriotic Pakistani would think twice before watching below-average flicks in cinemas. It is their money that makes a film successful or flop, so their valid concerns should be treated logically, otherwise, there won’t be a cinema industry to bank on in coming days. Let’s see how we can save the sinking cinema industry from becoming another Titanic and steer it into the direction it was heading before patriotism took it down, for the wrong reasons.

Banning The Competition, Helps The Competition

Between 1965 and 2005, no Indian film was released in Pakistani cinemas and that should have been the golden era of Pakistani films since there was no competition around, right? Wrong. In fact from late 1970s till 2005, we suffered the worst phase where below average films were presented in cinemas and people took refuge in Video Cassettes (later VCDs) where they either went for Bollywood films or Pakistani stage dramas. It was during the 1980s and 1990s when Pakistani cinegoers made a transition to Bollywood thanks to the low-quality flicks we were churning. Ask any Pakistani from that era about their favorite films and the will name films from across the border as that’s what they grew up on. Most of the cinemas around the country were demolished during that time and made way for Shopping Complexes whereas the remaining ones resorted to B Grade Hollywood films to keep their business running. Moving forward to the current scenario, in an era when one can download/stream a Bollywood film online just one month after its release for free, when Video on Demand and Streaming applications are making their presence felt, who would want to bet on a Pakistani film that has creepy dialogues, weird item numbers and absolutely nothing to offer for a ticket that is too expensive in the first place. Not me!

Reduced Ticket Prices & Combos

Talking of ticket prices and those of accompanying combos, we are still way behind the world. In countries like India, they make you want to come to cinemas by offering discounts on tickets, affordable combo deals and presenting a movie schedule that is acceptable to all. In single screen cinemas, they still have low-cost tickets so people will low-income can have a great time without spending too much. In our part of the world, we increase tickets for films such asAvengersEndgame or for those releasing on Eids just to make big bucks without offering anything extra. Same screen, same seats, same refreshments for a 100 rupees extra. A person who earns Rs. 50,000 per month would have to spend Rs. 1500 per head if he goes to the cinema with his family; the bigger the family, the bigger the dent on his pocket. Only die-hard cinema buffs would go and watch films regularly because they might be able to afford it, but for a middle-class person who doesn’t earn much to support his family, cinema ticket at the current rate of Rs. 500 to Rs. 900 becomes out of reach, hence out of sight!

Opening Doors To Local, International Filmmakers

Until and unless cinemas in Pakistan open their doors for new filmmakers, offer them a chance to screen their low-budget films in theatres, help them experience international films without the fear of losing money, we might not learn anything at all. It’s a fact that local filmmakers learn a lot from Bollywood and Hollywood films but that’s because they have access to only these 2 cinema industries in the world. Just imagine if an Iranian Film Festival takes place in Pakistan where dubbed version of classic films from Iran are shown to film students; what if in Holy month of Ramadan and Moharram, Islamic films like The Message, Lion Of The Desert, Saladin are screened soon after Iftar (instead of closing cinemas till the end of Taraweeh in Ramadan); they will do well in cinemas as would a few documentaries that revolve around the Islamic history. Within a month, the cinema owners will have their answer whether it was a successful experiment or a failed one but judging from the way we behave in Islamic months, it is likely to be a hit. Otherwise, arrogance might kill the once-booming industry and Netflix will become the ‘In’ thing!

Netflix Generation Is Here, For Less!

Given the choice, will you go for a Rs. 800 film ticket that lasts just one film or go for Rs. 950 Netflix Subscription where you can watch more collection of films, TV shows and documentaries than you have ever imagined. That too at the convenience of your home, at a time you desire and with a friend who may not be able to accompany you to theatre otherwise. That’s what the cinema industry is up against and until and unless they cut down their ticket prices, start a Cinema Discount Card, include Refreshments with tickets, prepare schedules keeping in mind the audience’s interest or make an out-of-the-box change, it will not last long because the competition might prevail. The sooner they realize, the better for the cinema industry!