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Islamabad welcomes first cinema in a decade - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Centaurus Cineplex, in Islamabad, Pakistan (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Centaurus Cineplex, in Islamabad, Pakistan (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Residents of Islamabad are celebrating the opening of a cinema in their city, after a decade without a venue to watch films on the big screen.

The city was previously home to four cinemas. Two state-owner movie houses closed down after heavy losses, while the landmark Melody cinema was burned down by religious extremists in 2003, and never reopened. The city’s last remaining cinema closed down shortly afterwards.

The new cinema, named the Cineplex, is located on the fourth floor of the city’s new Centaurus shopping mall.

“We are just excited about this cinema in our city . . . entertainment opportunities are so lacking in Islamabad that opening of this cinema in Islamabad comes as a pleasant surprise,” said Amna Syed, a teenager studying for an MBA at a local university.

“This cinema has not only entertainment values . . . this also has recreational value,” said Ms. Syed, as she sat drinking coffee with her parents and two younger siblings in the auditorium of the new cinema, while they waited for an English-language film to start.

The new Centaurus Cineplex opened its doors in June, and seats 520 movie-goers in total, with five screens with 3D projectors.

The Centaurus shopping center, which was inaugurated in February 2013, is intended to boost Pakistan’s attractiveness for organizers of international conferences and seminars, and is located in the center of the city.

“People throng Centaurus shopping mall in thousands every day . . . this makes the cinema, which is located on the fourth floor of the shopping mall all the more conspicuous and a major destination for the young and old of the city,” said Imran Ali Tipua, a local city reporter for one of the leading news channels of the Islamabad.

For the past ten years the entertainment-starved population of Islamabad was forced to go out of the city in the neighboring city of Rawalpindi to watch movies on the big screen. Rawalpindi currently has two 3-D cinemas, though the city is almost 30 kilometers from Islamabad.

“For many years we used to go to Rawalpindi to watch a movie,” said Ms. Syed, “Cineplex is going to safe us time and travelling expenses.”

Cinema-going culture is reviving in Pakistani society following the government’s adoption of a more liberal policy towards the import of Hollywood and Indian feature movies. Film critics said that since the collapse of the Pakistani film industry in 1990s, cinema-going was fading away from Pakistani society.

Instead, people were more attracted to watching movies on DVD and home movie theaters, as cheap pirated DVDs and video files on CD are available in most Pakistani markets for PKR 35–50 (USD 0.35-0.50).

“This is now changing . . . more and more people now want to come to the cinema to watch 3-D movies,” said Nadeem Mandiwala, a Pakistani importer of foreign movies.

Ms. Syed agrees. Its costs a little over PKR 500 (USD 5) to buy a ticket for a movie in Centaraus Cineplex, and this means that “We can afford this much money from our pocket money every week,” she says.

When Asharq Al-Awsat visited the Centaraus Cineplex all the five screens of the cinema were showing Hollywood movies. However, the manager of the cinema told Asharq Al-Awsat that they plan to show Indian feature movies as well in the near future.