Pakistani film exhibitors and cinema owners are likely to end a self-imposed ban on screening of Indian films on Monday after their revenue was hit. The ban was put in place amid escalating tensions between the two countries following the Uri terror attack in September.
Zoraish Lashari, the chairman of the Film Exhibitors Association, told reporters that after thorough discussions, it had been decided the screening of Indian films would resume from December 19.
“The cinema owners and other stakeholders in the industry have been hit by the decision to impose a temporary suspension on screening of Indian films. A lot of investment has been made into upgrading or building new cineplexes and multiplexes and the business at this time is dependent on screening of latest Indian films,” he said.
Lashari said the cinema owners and exhibitors had only imposed a self-imposed suspension of screening of Indian films and that it was not a ban.
The association, which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single-screen cinemas in the country, had announced they would “temporarily” stop screening Indian films soon after tensions escalated between Pakistan and India over cross-border firing incidents in late September.
Sources in the industry told PTI the reversal of that decision came after Pakistani films and even the latest Hollywood movies were failing to fill cinema halls.
“Plus in recent weeks several Indian films have been released while everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Aamir Khan’s Dangal,” a source said.
One source, however, said some cinema owners still feared backlash from religious parties or groups once they resumed screening of Indian films and have asked for protection if required.
Lashari said that first unreleased Indian films would be screened after which association members would hold negotiations with Indian distributors to continue the import of movies into Pakistan.
Pakistan’s leading English newspaper Dawn had in an editorial last month termed the ban on screening of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas as “damaging” and said Pakistani cinema houses were losing money because of the move. “Political concerns are indeed genuine, but they should not come at the cost of cultural exchanges that bring benefits to both sides of the border,” the editorial had said.
A senior manager of a major chain of cineplexes, Sabina Islam, said 75% of the revenue generated in the industry comes from screening of Indian films.
Pakistan is said to be the third largest market for Indian films.