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Movie Business In Pakistan! Theatres Are Empty Due to Ban On Indian Movies And We Are Not Producing Our Own

Despite efforts to introduce movies from other cultures, , including dubbed versions of Turkish films, Bollywood remains the primary choice for Pakistan’s moviegoers, says an article published in The New York Times, which adds that the movie business in the country is a largely ignored victim of the Pakistan-India conflict.

The writer, Mazhar Zaidi who is a journalist and filmmaker by profession, mentioned that the September 16 terror attack on an Indian army base was followed by a ban on Pakistani artists in India and screening of Indian movies in Pakistan – the result: seat occupancy down to 11 per cent within three months.

The reason is that Pakistan isn’t producing and distributing enough movies to fill theatres every week. “Though the number of screens in Pakistan increased from 30 in 2013 to almost 100 in 2017, producers and investors were being cautious. And most filmmakers realised that reaching larger audiences wasn’t possible.”

Although the ban came to an end after a few months, investors started questioning whether the movie business was feasible if it suffered after every crisis between the two countries.

The article mentions that the first ban on the exhibition of Indian films was imposed by military ruler Ayub Khan after the war in 1965, while the woes of the local cinema industry were further exacerbated during the era of Gen Zia, when higher taxation and strict censorship policies made it impossible for cinema to grow. And the end result was: a fading away cinema as the country lost most of its 700 single-screen cinemas.

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But things started to improve as Gen Musharraf removed the ban on showing Indian movies in 2006. By 2011 Pakistan had around 35 multiplex screens and more than a hundred more were being built. “The availability of screen space in turn encouraged local filmmakers to venture out and produce films.”

“And then fate delivered another lethal blow: India and Pakistan almost went to war in February after a suicide attack on Indian forces in Kashmir. An official ban was imposed on exhibiting Indians films in Pakistan. Three and a half months later, theatres in Pakistan are almost empty again and their owners are now considering laying off employees,” the article said.

The writer concluded that “unless the government finally manages to formulate a robust policy to encourage local cinema and Pakistani filmmakers are able to produce a consistent stream of compelling content that can compete with Bollywood and Hollywood, there is little hope that local cinema can keep breathing.”

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