Pakistani cinemas shut down for a day

KARACHI, Reuters

Cinemas across Pakistan stopped showing films for a day on Thursday to protest against the government’s failure to curb film piracy, an industry official said.

The Pakistan film exhibitors association said most cinemas across the country, about 300 in all, were shut.

“We will shut down cinemas for a day every week in March and than go on a week-long strike in April,” said association official Nadeem Mandviwalla.

“We want a protective environment to run our businesses.”

Indian Bollywood films are hugely popular in Pakistan but cinemas haven’t been allowed to show them since 1965, when the rival neighbors fought the second of their three wars.

Compounding the problem for cinema operators, cheap copies of the latest Bollywood and Western films are available in markets for people to buy and watch at home. Cable TV channels also screen them.

So cinemas face a huge struggle tempting people to buy tickets for the mostly Pakistani and Western films they show.

Mandviwalla said the strike was an act of desperation by cinema operators facing a threat to their survival.

“The ban on showing Indian films in cinemas make no sense when they are freely available in the market. Either allow us to screen Indian films or ban pirated copies,” he said.

The number of cinemas in Pakistan has fallen from about 750 in the 1970s to about 300. Many have been converted into shopping malls.

“Piracy can not be rooted out completely anywhere in the world but it has to be curbed to protect legitimate businesses and investment,” said Mandviwalla.