ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Having invested millions on establishing and maintaining their multiplexes, owners from Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Hyderabad have been suffering great losses due to the coronavirus lockdown. And now, it seems like the little making up they could have done on Eid will also not happen this year.

Distributor Nadeem Mandviwala explained how business had already been in the dumps after the government banned the screening of Bollywood films last year. “There was a lack of production of local films to begin with. But even the ones that did manage to be released before covid-19 struck did not perform that well,” he told The Express Tribune.

Mandviwala went onto reiterate how Hollywood is planning to screen its 2020 releases in September but the situation in Pakistan is deteriorating day by day. In a country where entertainment is demanded but entertainers are criticised and films are not fit to compete with heavy budget international productions that are being screened in the same cinemas, survival is difficult.

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“With a monthly rent of Rs4 million, expensive films cannot suffice our expenses. Setting up a digital and computerised cinema requires nearly Rs20 million to Rs30 million. Theatres have been closed for 50 days now and without maintenance, the machines we use might stop working. Who would compensate for our loss?” asked Mandiwala.

He continued to complain about the lack of government interest in maintaining these houses, adding that even if the government grants permission to screen films again, owners will remain at a loss after accommodating the audience in line with the SOPs.

“It has already become impossible to arrange salaries, pay bills and taxes,” Mandviwala lamented.

Also read: The Legend of Maula Jatt, Tich Button: Eid releases halt due to Covid-19

The Punjab government has already decided to keep cinemas closed on Eidul Fitr, with the provincial government rejecting the appeal of cinema owners. An official, on the conditions of anonymity said, “Making arrangements to ensure SOPs are being followed in cinemas won’t be feasible during Eidul Fitr. Thus, we have decided that all cinemas shall remain closed.”

Not to mention, the release of films slated for Eidul Fitr, including Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan’s The Legend of Maula Jatt and Urwa Hocane’s production debut Tich Button, along with several others that were being produced in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, have been postponed.

In view of the ongoing crises, an announcement allowing the release of these films can only come once the situation improves. According to a senior official of the Central Board of Film, “Censorship certificates were issued to the films in March and the agency had granted approval for the screening of commercial and non-commercial films. But the federal government closed cinema halls for the safety of the public and nothing can be done until they re-open in line with the new SOPs.”

Chairman Pakistan Film Distributors Associations, Chaudhry Ejaz Kamran, however, believes the situation is the same around the world. “We had films that had completed before Covid-19 took over, but the producers wanted to wait until Eid to release those films. Since cinemas will not be re-opening – and they shouldn’t until arrangements are made for people’s safety – we will work on a strategy to streamline their halted release. We need to observe the international film market and wait for the right moment,” he concluded.

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