Had someone prophesised that the far reaches of Karachi’s Defence area would provide ideal nesting grounds for a new-age multiplex, he would have been considered a madman. For who in his right mind would venture way out in DHA, Phase VIII to watch a movie when the same experience could be had in closer proximity, say at Cineplex on Sea View Drive, Atrium Cinema adjacent to Zainab Market or the many cinema houses in and around the city’s centrally located Saddar area?
Until very recently, making a trip to a multiplex in a far-flung, sparsely populated area (whose main claim-to-fame is that it houses a large number of people living in state-of-the-art luxury apartments) would have seemed like a vague possibility. It has since come to pass that Nueplex opened its doors (last week) and has simultaneously become the talk of the town with its state-of-the-art screening halls, some equipped with leather upholstered recliners. The launch officially took place on August 30, showcasing new Bollywood action/political thrillers Satyagraha and Madras Café, Hollywood’s Pacific Rim among others.
Here, Images on Sunday explores the factors and other concerns which have led to such a radical shift in the way we watch movies.
Initially, Karachi’s well-loved famous cinema houses lined M.A. Jinnah Road, at the junction of the busiest economic business hub of the city. They also lay on the same route as the Moharram procession and it was a familiar sight for anyone commuting the passageway around the time of Ashura as well as 12th Rabi-ul-Awal and the last quarter of Ramazan to see the facade cloaked by a black shroud in a sign of respect. But on the ironically titled Youm-i-Ishq, a protest turned into a riot which, in turn, reduced the iconic Nishat, Capri, Bambino and Prince Cinemas to rubble and ashes. Most of them have still not recovered from that day rage.
Security has been a pressing concern for those visiting these cinema houses the fear of their vehicles being subjected to vandalism and theft while parked on the main road, or concerns about personal safety while stepping out after the late night show.
Fuelled by the fact that an increasing number of Bollywood and Hollywood films are now being legitimately released across Pakistan on their international dates, the local populace has now started visiting cinemas more frequently than they did in the past.
This has resulted in big screen enthusiasts embracing the concept of cineplexes and multiplexes located in much safer areas and environs.
The mushroom growth of sprawling shopping malls housing multi-screen cinemas (Atrium, Ocean Towers) adds to the experience of a night out on the town by fusing shopping with entertainment into a bigger, wholesome (and much safer) package.
The world over, the concept of moving towards multiplexes from individual cinemas has gained popularity as it allows the cinema owners to show more movies simultaneously. Also, having a multiplex within a shopping mall’s secure perimeter, along with ample parking, plays an important role in the success of these businesses.
As an added incentive, Nueplex Cinemas at The Place have larger screens with infinitely better sound quality than some of their competitors, and saw select, invitation-only guests on the opening day (a conscious effort to target a particular crowd maybe?). Nevertheless, such efforts will surely help the cinema industry gain economic stability, making Pakistan an as yet unexplored, but potentially lucrative regional market for international film releases.