With the advent of multiplexes, cinemas have undergone a metamorphosis. Multiplexes have replaced traditional cinema houses, primarily by virtue of their deplorable condition, which were once the first and the elite choice for entertainment in Pakistan particularly in the decade of 1970s, popularly known as the golden era of Pakistan film industry. Instead of going to different locations to watch movies, now entire family may determine within the same premises who would watch what in the wake of multiple screens screening multifarious movies right from animated movies to Pakistani movies to Hollywood movies.
There were over 800 traditional cinemas in Pakistan where only Pakistani movies were screened. House Full was a common sight for the movies of the mega stars. However, the industry was laggard in terms of catching up with the world. Cine-goers do talk about the conundrum of long queues in stuffy and sweltering halls, bug-infested seats, bad sound system etc. which have actually been the primary reason for the descent of the traditional cinemas.
During 1970s, the Pakistan film industry was one of the leading film industries in the world releasing approximately 100 films a year. However, it could not sustain and there was descent leading the industry to mere nonentity. It is also believed that the advent of VCR and smuggled films from a neighboring country brought the Pakistan film industry and subsequently the cinemas to their knees.
The dramatic success of multiplexes may be attributed to better décor, entertainment content, well-made cartoons, variety of movies in English language, world class Pakistani movies, a family-friendly environment, better seating arrangements, air-conditioned halls, catering to evolving tastes of people, easy import of movies in digital hard drives, convenient method of buying tickets through internet etc.
The advent of 3D technology was instrumental for the coup of the modern cinemas vis-a-vis a 35mm projector used by some traditional cinemas. This deployment of digital technology brought a turnaround in the entertainment sector of Pakistan. Simultaneously, lifting of the ban on the foreign films did play its due role in spurring competition in the industry. Stunning content with immaculate acting by the professional actors must not also be neglected while talking about the breakthrough in the industry.
Modern cinema houses cater to up to 4,000 movie goers a day as per a conservative estimate relative to a few hundred catered by the traditional cinemas in Pakistan. With the sky-high inflation prevailing in Pakistan at this juncture, the entertainment sector has also seen the adverse impact in terms of revenue since everyone cannot afford to pay Rs700 or more for a movie in a multiplex. Watching movies in cinemas was relatively inexpensive in the erstwhile decade in traditional cinemas vis-à-vis multiplexes at present. However, there is certain stratum of the society which has got the purchasing power and this class does flock to the multiplexes. Pakistan has over 60 million middle class which in fact has contributed a lot in the success of the entertainment industry of Pakistan.
There may be some deterrents which should be addressed at the earliest so that this industry may flourish. The government must rationalize taxes so that buying a ticket could be viable for the populace. Lowering entertainment tax may underpin the recovery of the local industry to the hilt. Copy right issues must be handled with prudence to protect the industry and its allied sectors. Simultaneously, the easy access to the availability of the movies through DVD, cable operators, various websites and certain online organizations might be a challenge for the multiplexes in the future.
There is massive potential in the entertainment industry of Pakistan for investment. The investment made today may fetch manifold returns in the not-too-distant future. The trend in Pakistan is changing and now more and more people are interested in watching movies on the big screen. Instead of multiplexes, investors may think of megaplexes for the burgeoning population of Pakistan. Various universities in Pakistan offer courses and degrees in film which evinces the availability of trained film-makers and enormous potential in Pakistan’s film industry.