In the race of all Pakistani upcoming films on Eid, a strange addition has caused quite a stir.
Celebratory events and the film business go hand-in-hand across the globe. Cultural and religious festivals of various kinds have always given a push to the film business, resulting in huge box-office turnouts. So solidified is this trend that stars have become known for the festivals on which they release their films.
Festivals And Films
In Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are known for their Diwali and Christmas releases, while Salman Khan always banks on Eid for launching his upcoming films. Eid season became a prominent event in Bollywood during the 1990s, where huge Indian blockbusters have been churned out, starting from Madhuri Dixit’s Beta (1992) to Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Kal Ho Na Ho, and Salman Khan’s Dabang, Bodyguard, and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, to name a few. Pakistani cinema’s love affair with Eid ul Fitr has been far more deep-rooted since, and this year’s festival is no exception. This year will see five major upcoming films on Eid, namely Dum Mastam, Ghabrana Nahi Hai, Chakkar, Parde Mein Rehne Do, and Tere Bajre Di Rakhi.
While the industry and fans are eagerly awaiting star-studded upcoming films, there is a certain section who is having cold feet due to some genuine concerns. The competition offered by big budget counterparts from Hollywood and Bollywood at festivals has always been a bone of contention for local filmmakers and investors. The latter have always complained of the spotlight being snatched by these big budget offerings at such crucial events where they grab major chunks of shows, resulting in a limited space for local releases to perform.
There are more than a few occasions where filmmakers have blamed the failures of their films to the unjust assignment of cinema shows/time slots with regards to their films. The claim does have some substance, given the recent example of the Junaid Khan-Mansha Pasha starrer, “Kahe Dil Jidhar” where everyone was left wondering where the film went amidst the brouhaha that surrounded the release of “Spiderman: No Way Home.”
It’s perhaps due to such practices that Pakistani filmmakers in recent years have been able to achieve a temporary ban on foreign (especially Bollywood) upcoming films during the Eid season. In recent years, a temporary ban of two weeks was imposed on such films to ensure adequate performing space for local cinema, though the ban was later squeezed to one week.
The Upcoming Upheaval
This Eid ul Fitr, local cinema offerings aren’t competing with Bollywood, but they do have a strong competitor in the form of “Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” where the film could potentially snatch a major chunk, if not all, of the shows up on its release.
As we analyse the number of shows assigned to the upcoming films this Eid, we see that the first three days are assigned to Pakistani films only. One of Pakistan’s biggest cinema chains, Universal Cinemas, has assigned a rather impressive number of shows to Dum Mastam, where the romantic comedy is getting 19 shows for the first three days of Eid (2nd to 5th May). “Ghabrana Nahi Hai,” “Parde Mein Rehne Do,” are getting 12-13 shows, with Chakkar and “Tere Bajrey Di Rakhi” getting fewer shows.
The famous CUE Cinemas in Lahore has given 13 shows to Dr Strange on the first day of its release on 6th May, while it has assigned a mere 4 shows to Dum Mastam, 3 shows to Ghabrana Nahi Hai, and 3 shows to Parde Mein Rehne Do on average, over its first three days of release.
Nueplex in Karachi has assigned 6 shows to Dr Strange on the first day of its release, while Ghabrana Nahi Hai has been given 10 shows, Parde Mein Rehne Do has 7, and Dum Mastam and Chakkar have 5 shows each.
Other cinemas are following a similar release regimen. Where the main catch lies is how many shows local upcoming films will receive after the three-day holiday period for local films is over. On Friday, Dr Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness will hit theatres, and that is when the real test of local films shall start.
The advance booking for the Marvel film started way before that of local releases, and had been receiving an amazing response at cinemas. Cinemas are planning to adjust the number of shows as per the performance, reviews, and word of mouth of local films, and it will be the content that will decide their fate. A shaky performance by local films with the Hollywood film faring better could dramatically shift the balance of the shows being assigned, and hence, could land the prospects of local investors in trouble.
Looking at the example of Universal Cinemas again, which has a capacity of upto 30 shows to one film – if, worst case scenario, no local film performs, Dr Strange could grab all or most of the shows, causing disappointment to local filmmakers and fans alike. A full 8-10 shows for Dr Strange means further increase in the number of its shows in ensuing days. Thus, the performance of local films on the first three days and positive word of mouth is of paramount importance for the local box-office.
The political fiasco that surrounded the country and grabbed the limelight of media and masses in the first three weeks of Ramadan also placed a dent on the promotional activities of local films. Although these activities have resumed, and have attained full momentum, at the end of the day, it is the content of each film that will help it pass the litmus test of standing against a big release like Dr Strange. If any of the films falter in the first three days, it won’t be “strange” to see it bite the dust and be forgotten in what truly has become a “multiverse of madness.”