Tuesday December 05, 2023

Peshawar losing cinemas to commercial plazas

November 07, 2022

PESHAWAR: The city of Peshawar has started losing decades-old cinema houses, which have been converted into trade and commercial plazas depriving thousands of film lovers of entertainment.

Peshawar, which produced many international legendary artistes including Bollywood superstars Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, Lollywood famous actors Qavi Khan and Firdous Jamal, has lost seven cinemas due to lack of production of new films in Urdu and Pashto, high property taxes on cinemas, security concerns, rising trend of social media and commercialization.

Out of 15 cinemas in Peshawar, the seven oldest cinema houses including Shabistan (Firdus), Palwasha, Capital, Falak Sair, Novelty, Metro, Sabrina and Ihsrat were demolished and converted into trade and commercial centres and hotels for monetary gains.

The remaining few cinemas in Peshawar City including Arshad Cinema, Sabreena, Aaeena, Naz and Shama also seemed mostly deserted due to the unavailability of new films, high-production film cost, pathetic seating facilities and unsatisfactory approach of the provincial government towards the film industry.

“I came to Peshawar to watch my favorite Pashto film ‘Sitamgar’ at Arshad Cinema after the closure of two cinemas including ‘Taj’ in Mardan,” said Amjad Khan,33, a Pashto film lover and resident of Babu Mohallah in Mardan City.

Amjad said that he and his friends were planning to go to Rawalpindi and Lahore on weekend to watch movies in a relatively better cinema environment. Besides Peshawar, four cinemas in Nowshera were also closed down, he added.

Samad Khan, a resident of Barikot in Swat, said that he came to Peshawar to watch his favorite Pashto movie. Gohar Khan, Manager Sabrina Cinema, said that he was screening two shows a day of Pashto movie ‘Badmashi Na Manum’ at Rs200 per ticket only, adding that there were hardly 50 people in the cinema hall which was “highly discouraging.”

The rising monthly electricity bills, staff salaries and property taxes had added to the financial difficulties of cinema owners in KP, he added. Gohar expressed the hope of “earning handsome profit” from a new Pashto film ‘Marg Lewantoob Ghwari, to be released on November 18 at Arshad Cinema, wherein famous Pashto artistes Jahangir Khan and Arbaz Khan would play the main roles.

“Its main theme is to promote patriotism, love and discourage hate and negativity in society,” he said.

Noted Pashto film director, producer and artiste, Shahid Khan said that the reasons behind dying cinemas was the “poor storyline, outdated cinematography, wrong presentation of Pashto culture and vulgarity”.

“A quality film requires around Rs10 million investment while most of the film producers ask Rs2 million for production of a Pashto movie that was insufficient to produce a quality Pashto movie,” he said.

He said Pashto films had high-profit potential due to vast viewership in Pakistan mostly in KP, Karachi and Afghanistan. He recalled that when a Pashto film was released in the city in the past, thousands of film lovers would gather outside the cinema houses and cheered for their favourite hero that was now hardly seen in Peshawar. Despite being worst-affected by terrorism, he said local film producers and cinema owners remained resilient and kept cinema houses functional even in the most difficult times and provided entertainment to people.

He urged the KP government to support those who believed in quality work. “We urged the government to exempt cinemas from taxation and provide financial assistance to the artiste community to enable them to produce quality films,” he said.