Pakistani film distributors and some filmmakers are up in arms over the government's decision to bar the screening of Indian movies during the upcoming Eid festival, saying such protectionist measures cannot foster the development of indigenous cinema.
Culture Minister Aftab Shah Jillani recently announced that no Indian film will be screened across Pakistan during Eid to boost the flagging local industry.
The two annual Eid festivals are usually the most profitable periods of the year for film distributors and cinema hall owners as families throng theatres.
Nadeem Mandviwala, a senior official of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association, said such protectionist measures alone will not foster the development of the local film industry.
Besides, he pointed out, the move will affect cinema hall owners who invested Rs 40 crore over the past three years to build new multiplexes and refurbish existing theatres.
"The government's move will protect Punjabi films made in Lahore. We have protested because the government has ignored Sindh and Karachi, where there is no market for Punjabi films," Mandviwala, one of Pakistan's leading distributors, told PTI.
"What will theatres in these areas screen during Eid?"
Many theatre owners earn greater returns during the Eid festival than in other months and the lack of quality products will affect their profitability, he said.
It was also not clear how many films local filmmakers and producers will release during Eid, he said.
"When 250 cinema halls were closed across Pakistan during 2001-07, where were the local directors and producers? What did they do?" Mandviwala said.
Lahore-based producer and director Ijaz Bajwa said it would be unjust for audiences to ban Indian movies during Eid.
"People are only concerned about good movies, irrespective of whether they are Indian or Pakistani.
They come to cinemas to watch good films," he told PTI.
"This ban on Indian films will not give a boost to the Pakistani film industry, which is not making better films," he said.
Bajwa, whose Punjabi film Chana Sachi Muchi did good business at the box office earlier this year, said the local industry should produce a good number of movies every year instead of demanding a ban on Indian cinema.
Industry insiders say the government’s decision to temporarily bar the screening of Indian films was influenced by a lobby of Lahore-based Pakistani filmmakers who have been unable to find markets for their films with poor production values.