ABBOTTABAD: The historic Taj Mahal cinema of Abbottabad city, which was also the only remaining in Hazara division, is being dismantled after its owner sold the property.

Mohammad Saeed Khan, who was running Taj Mahal cinema for the last about 40 years, said that the business was at full swing till 2010 and Abbottabad being a tourist city provided entertainment facilities to visitors, but later the business dwindled which forced the owner to sell the property. Built in 1948 by Mohammad Khan Hoti the cinema house once used to be full to its capacity of 600 spectators. He sold it in 1974.

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There were also four other cinema houses in Abbottabad city. Two of them, Royal cinema and Umpire cinema, were owned by the cantonment board and the municipal committee, respectively. They were constructed before partition. Two other cinema houses located in the cantonment area are FFR Centre and AMC Centre.

Built in 1948 the cinema house is being dismantled by its new owner

However, the Umpire cinema was demolished by the municipal committee in 1996 to construct a commercial building on the site. Similarly, the Royal cinema was also dismantled by the cantonment board for the construction of a commercial plaza.

However, the two departments have not yet constructed plazas there and the land is being used for car parking and cabins constructed privately.

Saeed Khan said that the downfall of the cinema industry started with the downfall of Pakistan film industry which failed to produce quality movies. He said that the arrival of Internet, CDs, cable and other sources of entertainment also resulted in the gradual fall of cinema industry.

He said that for the last two years, not a single show even on the first day of a new film could attract more than 200 spectators. He said that of late the number of spectators had dropped to 50 visitors, which was resulting in a huge loss to the owners. He said that the law and order situation was another major reason for rollback of the business as fear of blasts and other terrorist activities had forced the spectators to keep away from cinema houses.

Saeed Khan, who is also runs Gulistan cinema in Lahore, said that Indian films had ruined the local culture and film industry.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2015

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