The tense political feud between India and Pakistan is taking a toll on the film industry.
Pakistan has halted the screening of Bollywood movies in theaters across the country, forcing the nation’s largest chain, Cinepax Cinemas, to show reruns of old Pakistani films. Even before the current political standoff, the cinema chain was offering discounts of as much as 40 percent on tickets to attract more customers.
Bollywood movies, with their often three-hour song-and-dance formats, are popular in Pakistan, accounting for about 60 percent of total cinema consumption, according to Rafay Mahmood, culture editor at Karachi-based The Express Tribune. Hollywood movies and films produced by Pakistan’s industry, known as Lollywood, make up the rest.
Cinemas are “experiencing its lowest footfall” after the ban, said Syed Mubashir Imam, chief executive officer of Karachi-based Media City Productions, a television production company. “Let’s see how they tackle it. It is indeed a challenge for them and not an easy task.”
India and Pakistan have been engaged in the worst military conflict in decades in recent weeks, with cross-border firing still ongoing and Pakistan’s airspace remaining partially closed. The tension has stoked nationalist sentiment on both sides, with Indian actor Ajay Devgn saying his latest movie won’t be released in Pakistan.
Cinepax is Pakistan’s largest cinema operator with 45 screens and more than 6,000 seats nationwide. It’s offering a 40 percent discount on tickets for Pakistani films at silver screen theaters, and a 30 percent price cut at the higher-end gold theaters.