The novel coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on every business worldwide and entertainment industry faced its fair share of consequences due to an indefinite shutdown of film shoots, theaters and cinema halls as well as cancellation of film festivals, award shows and film releases.
Things are finally changing for the better, one step at a time, as Warner Bros. released the season’s biggest title, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, internationally on August 26th in 70 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom. It will move to select cities in the United States on September 3, gradually expanding in the ensuing weeks. Although, it is a highly unusual move, it is an attempt to test the waters for the first big-budget theatrical release since the COVID-19 struck. This is one of the biggest gambles of Hollywood to test fans’ appetite for cinemas with strict protocols in place. But will it bear fruit for all parties involved? Only time will tell.
Cinemas in Pakistan are finally allowed to open again after months, but there are innumerable burning questions still looming like a threat; for instance will new films be releasing anytime soon, will the makers of big budget films like The Legend of Maula Jatt and highly anticipated ones like Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad and Tich Button be open to non-holiday releases, can proper SOPs be enforced in Pakistani cinemas, especially smaller single screen cinemas, will there be a hike in ticket prices to adjust the profit margin and how it will affect the footfall? The list of questions is long and tedious. Only experts can weigh in on that and I believe even they are not sure yet.
This is an unprecedented time and its aftermath is something unheard of. Hence, the measures taken to overcome the challenges will be unusual. However, when it comes to local cinemas in Pakistan, we have been facing unexampled circumstances since time immemorial. Recently an article surfaced from DAWN’s archive dating back to 28th August, 1970 titled ‘Film industry shut-down’ where it is reported that “cinema houses, film studios and distribution offices throughout West Pakistan, including Karachi, will be closed down for an indefinite period in order to press for acceptance of demands.”
While the aforementioned demands were against the harsh and harmful policies of the Censor Board, the picture today, after nearly 50 years, is not so different. Pakistan’s film industry is still fighting battles on several fronts and censor board is one of them. Films like Maalik, Durj and the most recent Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha have beared the brunt of the censor board’s antagonistic policies.
If we continue at the same pace and with the same agendas then the imminent danger of closure of multiple cinema houses is inevitable. Unfortunately, the industry was hit hard at a time when filmmakers, producers, actors and all parties involved had barely started reviving the long-lost cause. So, in order to jump-start the vehicle after a slumber, all stake-holders need to invest and make it a fair market for business without discrepancies. Cinema in Pakistan is still a luxury and it will take a few more decades and boatload of successful films to change it. All we can hope for the umpteenth time is that with patience, hard work and resilience — three of this country’s biggest virtues — we will overcome this challenge as well.