ISLAMABAD: A smart damage control move by senior officials of both the district administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) cleared a legal hurdle for screening of movies at an open air theatre.

The move to lay the foundation of a drive-in cinema in the capital was stopped by the Central Board of Film Censor, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on the complaint of the distributors of movies that were scheduled to be screened.

The board wrote a letter to the deputy commissioner of Islamabad titled “Stop screening of illegal public exhibition”, saying two complaints have been received from M/s HKC Entertainment and M/s Footprint Pakistan on Dec 15.

The event to screen the movies is scheduled in F-9 Park from Dec 18 by Active Media in collaboration with the CDA, ICT and Jazz Pakistan.

The complainants had told the censor board that exhibition rights for the screening of films “Venom”, “War for the Planet of the Apes”, “Spiderman Far From Home”, “Alita: Battle Angel” and “Dead Pool 2” in Pakistan had expired.

The complainants also added that they had long-term contracts with respective studios in Hollywood and hold exhibition rights for the films produced by these studios in Pakistan.

At the same time, the censor board restricted the screening of the movies under the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979. Its Section 4 (1) states: “No person shall make or arrange a public or private exhibition of a film by means of cinematograph unless the film has been duly certified for public exhibition by the Board, provided that nothing in this subsection shall be deemed to apply to the exhibition, in the residential premises of any person, of a film which only records events in the life of such person or any member of his family.”

The censor board told the deputy commissioner: “You are, therefore, requested to take appropriate action and stop illegal exhibition/screening of the aforementioned films.”

As the news spread, the sponsor of the event expressed its concerns over copyright violations by the event manager for screening of the movies.

Aisha Sarwari, a spokesperson for Jazz, responding to a query said: “Jazz upholds the highest ethical standards across its business operations. We are a title sponsor for this initiative and work with our partners, who fulfill all concerned formalities with respect to screening of movies including valid exhibition rights.”

However, the DC office responded swiftly to the letter by the censor board and sought a solution from them.

An official of the DC office said the censor board has decided to partner in the project to have a drive-in cinema in the city as the cinemas all over Pakistan have been closed for most of the year while maintaining social distancing to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

“The censor board will provide a list of movies that have been cleared for screening in the country and do not have any copyright issues too,” the official added.

The list of movies will be shared with the ICT and CDA today (Thursday) to decide which movies would be screened at the drive-in cinema.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020

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