Multiplex circuit Cinepax has ambitious plans for Pakistan

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This month’s column is especially exciting. It’s not often that I get to introduce the exhibition industry of a new territory. Today, I am pleased to share an interview with Mohsin Yaseen, marketing manager for Cinepax Ltd., based in Karachi, Pakistan. Mr. Yaseen was introduced to me by Pir Saad Ahsanuddin, president of the Cinepax group.

Cinepax Ltd. is Pakistan’s first dedicated multiplex company, opening the country’s first premier movie exhibition center at Jinnah Park Rawalpindi. The center has 1,350 cinema seats along with a Tribal Gaming Lounge and a Snooker Club.

The company’s goal is to build family-entertainment centers all around the country consisting of multiplexes, food courts, health clubs, online gaming zones and play areas for children—a complete facility under one roof catering to people from all age groups and classes. The circuit plans to expand to additional cities such as Faisalabad, Islamabad and Lahore.

Film Journal International: What is the state of the exhibition business in Pakistan?
Mohsin Yaseen: At the moment it’s gradually coming back to life, but 20 years back we had a booming cinema business in Pakistan. We had more than 600 cinemas. At that time, the local film industry was quite active, mainly producing films that were screened. But then we had a political regime in the ’80s that imposed very high entertainment taxes and strict censor policies, which ruined the local film and cinema industry. All exhibitors either started selling their cinemas or building shopping malls. Pakistan’s screen count went from 600-plus cinemas in 1987 to 25 cinemas in 2007.

In 2005 we started a film distribution company, Boxoffice Entertainment, and we began to import premium Hollywood content which was either not coming into Pakistan, or if it was here, it was in the shape of pirated DVDs. After a two-year successful run of our distribution company, we started our cineplex brand in 2007.

Since then, almost 12 other cinemas have begun to do business, seven new and five renovated. There are 20 more screens under construction in the country which will open by mid-2012.

This has all mainly happened due to release of timely content flow from Hollywood and relief on the ban of Indian movies in Pakistani cinemas. So at the moment, we have altogether 38 operational cinemas with an average gross rental of Hollywood blockbuster movies at about US$250,000 and Indian movies at $350,000.

The local industry is also reviving as cinemas come back to life. Just this past June, a local film reached historic box-office figures. This is encouraging, as lots of other directors, production houses and investors are now looking to re-enter the business.

FJI: Please tell us about your circuit. How many theatres? Which cities? Do you run any special marketing programs, etc.?
MY: At the moment, our circuit is present in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The two cinemas in Rawalpindi are single-screen. We are in what is called the Punjab circuit, which has 26 other cinemas in seven different cities. Cinepax is rolling out additional operations in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Faisalabad, a total of 13 screens at four sites to be added by the end of 2012.

We run special promotions for our weekday matinee shows where ticket prices are reduced to cater to students and the B+ category of the market.

FJI: How much are tickets?
MY: Our average multiplex ticket price is Rs350, or approximately $4. For our single-screen theatres, the average ticket price is Rs200, approximately $2.30.

FJI: What projection and sound equipment do you use?
MY: We are using Christie projectors in our cinemas, Dolby sound processors, QSC speakers and amplifiers.

FJI: How many movies do you screen a year? Can you break down Hollywood, Pakistani and other films?
MY: Due to the heavy flow of Indian and Hollywood content over the past few years, the number of released movies has increased. Here are the details:
2007-08: 41 (6 Pakistani, 24 Hollywood, 11 Indian)
2008-09: 41 (3 Pakistani, 18 Hollywood, 20 Indian)
2009-10: 44 (3 Pakistani, 17 Hollywood, 24 Indian)
2010-11: 70 (2 Pakistani, 29 Hollywood, 39 Indian)

FJI: Has digital projection been introduced yet?
MY: Yes, from the start of 2011, we now have three digital cinemas in two different cities, Lahore and Karachi. All are using Barco 2K projectors at the moment.

FJI: Are you planning to convert to 3D?

MY: We have so far purchased two Technicolor 3D lenses. In October we may make a digital 3D installation. Overall, few cinemas have installed digital 3D systems, which we know increase movie revenue and are revolutionizing the business here.

Contact Scott Rosenberg with relevant news stories at prdivision@gmail.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @scott_cos or on Facebook: D Scott Rosenberg.

Screens in Pakistan
Lahore: 14
Karachi: 10
Rawalpindi/Islamabad: 3
Hyderabad: 2
Gujranwala: 2
Gujrat: 2
Multan: 2
Faisalabad: 1
Sarghoda: 1
Sialkot: 1
(Figures supplied by Cinepax)