Peshawar Saddar loses its last cinema

June 27, 2019

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A man stands amid the rubble in the main hall of the erstwhile Capital Cinema. — Dawn
A man stands amid the rubble in the main hall of the erstwhile Capital Cinema. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: The Capital Cinema, housed in a century-old Kawatra building in Saddar Bazaar, has been shut down after facing bad business for the last decade or so.

The Capital Cinema was an old picture house on Arbab Road that was the last one to shut down in the area. There were three cinemas in Peshawar Cantonment including Capital Cinema and Falak Sair that were closed down due to bad business while Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Cinema was closed for public owing to security reasons.

The Falak Sair Cinema was closed down in June 2006 and turned into a shopping plaza later on. A civil court ordered to stay the demolition of the cinema building but it was too late and the building had gone by the time court issued the order.

For the last few months, Capital Cinema was closed. A visit to the cinema showed just beautiful green walls, speaking of old artistry and some signs that the venue was once a cinema.

Of 15 known cinemas in city, only seven are still surviving

The cinema hall was completely dismantled and old planks and nails were scattered all around. Only the “Exit” signs and “No smoking in the hall” revealed the place was once a cinema that screened movies to a huge audience.

The building with its torn wooden floors, plaster coming off the walls and abandoned ticket counters, depicted well the plight of the cinema business in the city.

“These are the ticket counters. Anyone, who got hold of a ticket from here, would consider himself very lucky,” said 60-year-old red-bearded Mohammadi Gul, reminiscing the good old times. He sells popcorns outside the Capital Cinema since his youth.

He said that people had stopped coming to the cinema after arrival of VCR and mobile phones. “No one wants to come to cinema when one can download and watch a movie on mobile phone,” said Mr Gul, explaining how he had seen old cinema business go down due to arrival of technology.

Taimur, a salesman at a shop in Saddar Bazaar, said he used to go to Capital Cinema and watch movie. He said that cinemas in Saddar like Falak Sair and PAF were shut and then Capital Cinema was closed down as well due to bad business.

“I feel sad at this one as I used to go and watch movie there,” said Taimur.

But Zakir, who used to run canteen in the cinema, said that he was earning well by doing business outside. He said that people were not coming to cinema and business was not good.

“Urdu, English and Pashto films were being screened in the cinema but hardly 30 to 40 people would go in a show,” said Zakir.

Cinema had already been doing bad business for a couple of decades and mostly cinemas housed in old buildings at prime locations in the city were demolished. Some of them were turned into commercial plazas and others into hotels.

There were around 15 known cinemas in Peshawar.

However, now only seven are still surviving in the old part of the city including Naz, Arshad, Aina, Tasveer Mahal ,Picture House and Shama cinemas. Many old cinemas like Firdous (Shabistan), Falak Sair, Palwasha, Novelty, Metro, Ishrat, Sabrina, PAF and Capital Cinema have been demolished.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019