The world’s cinema business is at a halt due to current coronavirus outbreak. The contagious virus has taken over 2.7 lac lives and it has forced the governments around the globe to lockdown.

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Pakistani cinema has even adverse effects of this lockdown as the industry was still going through a revival phase. Over the past few years we had managed to push boundaries and expanded the reach of the cinema but hurdles kept coming. At the start of the decade the opening day record was under PKR 3 million and now the opening day record is close to PKR 450 million.

Hurdles faced by Pakistani Cinema during revival

During the growth over the decade we saw two major hurdles. First one came in the last quarter of 2016 when Indian films got banned. At that time, Hindi films were getting crazy footfalls and the cinema was seeing exponential growth however due to the ban we saw huge drop in footfall. The ban remained for around four months and in these four months we couldn’t see even a single major hit and cinema chains fired many employees and few screens got closed as well.

However, things got normal during the second month of 2017 but this time around we saw Hollywood films seeing exponential growth. Next three years saw English films recording staggering numbers. Hindi films continued to do well and the footfall reached to new highs and the cinema’s single day ceiling went over PKR 800 million during Eids/Holidays. Indian films got banned again in the February of 2019 and the footfalls got hit again.

However, there was huge inflow of big Hollywood films which compensated and we didn’t see a drastic fall like the last time. However there was still need of some push as Hollywood films provide big numbers during April to Summer window only. While looking for that push we saw many Pakistani films going on floors and it was expected that we might see 20-30 major Pakistani films releasing in 2020 but the current global pandemic has hit us all badly.

Coronavirus and Pakistani cinema

There is no certainty that when will things get to normal and when will cinemas open again. However, the bigger question is that what will be the response when cinemas open again and how will be the box office performance. Furthermore, how much time it will take for box office to reach optimum levels again.

Well it all depends on various factors.

First and foremost factor is willingness of cinegoers. The pandemic has created a sense of insecurity among people who are being cautious about leaving their houses. Will this fear persist even after the lock down is lifted is hard to determine. Even if we get some type of vaccine or cure it will take months before it reaches common people and till then will they take risk of going to a cinema.

Next factor is the release slot. Even though after the lockdown we might see some Hollywood films seeing the light of day but will we see any major crowd pulling local film releasing? There were multiple Urdu films which were ready for release before pandemic but will they opt for release soon after the lockdown or will they wait till the things get normal globally and that might take months.

Once the lockdown is lifted and cinemas are open audiences won’t be ready to take risk plus there won’t be much of the content to play. However things will start to settle in few months when we see a cure or vaccine coming in but till then how many cinema screens will be able to survive is another question.

All in all, once the cinemas re-open things will get even worse and we will see very poor box office numbers and it will be a wait and watch for things to get normal and major films to start rolling.

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