PESHAWAR           -          Cinema Road in the provincial capital used to be a famous venue for movie buffs. However, nowadays the venue is a scene of bumper-to-bumper vehicles since sev­eral cinemas are being used as parking lots amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

However, those associated with the busi­ness are still optimistic about the future of the cinemas as they say the big screen can­not be a substitute for the movies seen on smartphones and other devices.

Arshad Khan, owner of Arshad Cinema, told The Nation that they had converted their cinema into a parking lot because they had no other option to earn through the sprawling venue.

He said, “Cinema owners met the pro­vincial culture minister and apprised him of their problems. But so far there has been no support from the ministry or the KP Culture Directorate.”

He said they even requested the govern­ment to let them resume work with prop­er SOPs. “When all markets are open and public transport is also running in full swing, why cinema owners are not al­lowed to work?” he questioned.

Jawad Raza, who owns KP’s famous cin­emas known as Picture House and Naz Cinema, said that in the year 2000, there were around 20 cinemas in Peshawar and now the provincial capital hosts six cine­mas only. “Not only in Peshawar, but over­all the numbers of cinemas in the country are declining. There are around 160 cin­emas in Pakistan and I know several cin­ema owners even in Punjab who are de­molishing their facilities to set up plazas,” he claimed.

“One Pashto movie costs around Rs.9 million while the Urdu Lollywood movies cost even much higher than that,” he said and added it was not possible to generate enough money through cinemas while the government authorities concerned were not extending their assistance to the cin­ema industry.

“20 movies were expected to be re­leased this year, but now hardly 10 can be released due to the coronavirus pandem­ic,” he said.

He said there were around 600 workers attached to the cinema industry in Pesha­war while the numbers of those attached to the movie industry and cinemas over­all, such as artistes, producers and others, may exceed 25,000.

KP Minister for Culture Shaukat Yousafzai did not pick calls, nor did he respond to the questions delivered to him on his Whatsapp number. How­ever, a government official of relevant department told The Nation that after 18th Amendment, the censor board was also devolved to the province but the government had so far failed to form the board at KP level.

“Recently, the chief secretary of KP has sought from us details of cinemas affected during the lockdown. There are a total of 8 cinemas, seven in Peshawar and one in Swat, while one of the seven in Peshawar is also reportedly being de­molished,” he added.

The official said that hopefully in Au­gust, the members of the provincial cen­sor board would be nominated from vari­ous spheres such as cinemas, artistes and relevant government authorities, etc and the body might start working to solve the problems being faced by the cinemas and related community