Heading to Hyderabad on a Tuesday morning, a group of Karachi-based journalists and bloggers enjoys a friendly banter about what they perceived to be an underdeveloped city. Among them sits Danish, a native of this Bella Vista city and the obvious target for the rest.
Before Danish could defend his hometown, the bus entered Pakistan’s sixth largest city, which painted a picture that was quite contrary to his peers’ perception. The passengers saw a blooming city with signs of development every step of the way.
Lined with vibrant storefronts of popular cosmopolitan brands including McDonald’s, J., Gul Ahmed and Stone Age, the Auto Bhan Road – Hyderabad’s equivalent of Zamzama Street in Karachi – was festooned with assiduous market hustle bustle.
The first scenes from the second largest metropolis in Sindh were a clear indication to the visitors that the city has witnessed a notable growth in entertainment and recreation opportunities. However, it is set to get a big boost as the city welcomed its first-ever multiplex cinema, a project of Cinepax Cinemas, the host of these journalists.
Amid signs that tier-two cities are the next destination for the expansion of entertainment industry, Cinepax Cinemas, the largest cinema chain of Pakistan, opened a three-screen multiplex at Boulevard Mall in Hyderabad, the company’s 11th digital cinema in the country.
After the success of the Cinema houses in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Muree and Gujrat, the company was confident it can open a cinema in Hyderabad as it is a huge market with great potential.
“Moreover the idea was to not only cater to the people of Hyderabad but also to audiences from surrounding suburbs,” said Hashim Raza, the CEO of Cinepax Cinemas.
The CEO’s plans to cater to the neighboring cities are well reflected by the capacity of this multiplex.
The new 3D cinema deploys 50-feet wide screens with 7.1 Dolby sound systems. It has silver, gold and platinum sections and can accommodate up to 850 people at a time.
“We are expecting a footfall of 25,000 to 30,000 people per month,” said the CEO.
These expectations are not far-fetched for an entertainment giant like Cinepax, which has been attracting massive crowd to its existing business.
The cinema chain is currently running 10 cinemas with 23 screens in seven different cities, including Karachi and Lahore. It has a total capacity of 4,800 seats nationwide.
In addition to that, the company has no plans to stop just there. It plans on spurring the growth of cinema industry which is already going through a boom by bringing fresh investments to relatively smaller cities. It targets to launch 150 modern screens in 11 different cities of the country.
Industry experts say Pakistan needs about 500 screens to cater to the needs of the whole country – it currently has over a hundred cinemas in different big cities.
The entertainment industry, especially cinemas, started flourishing in the era of General Pervez Musharraf when market was opened for the screening of Indian movies in Pakistan. The 65 per cent tax reduction plan for Punjab and Sindh governments on new commerce also helped boost the industry.
Nine years into screening movies from around the world, the cinema market has become one of the most profitable businesses in Pakistan. The culture of cinema is on the rise with more and more people now visiting theatres to watch movies.
More than 100 new screens were installed in the country in the last five years, out of these 28 are owned by Cinepax, the company said.
According to Raza, the CEO, the industry demonstrated a growth of 28 per cent in the previous year. However, local films claimed only 3 per cent of the total growth. Experts are hoping for an even better picture in the coming year when 43 new films with varied contents will be released.
The growth that came in the last five years is not only attracting higher footfall to the cinemas but also translating to an increase in the money flow.
The five top-grossing movies in Pakistan alone did Rs1.5 billion worth of business – this equals the-2011 turnover for the entire industry.
According to Profit’s research, the highest-grossing movie on the Pakistani box office was Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (2015), which racked in Rs450 million.
Meanwhile, Sultan (2016), Dhoom 3 (2014), Waar (2013) and Bajrangi Bhaijan (2015) grossed Rs324 million, Rs245 million, Rs240 million and Rs 232 million respectively.
Meanwhile, industry experts are very optimistic about the future of the industry. Gurus say that investors are approaching for opportunities in the market for the very first time. This comes on the back of unmatched growth observed in cinema in the last few years.
These solid growth prospects are the driving force behind Cinepax’s optimism in the industry’s future: the company, which has already invested Rs60 million in Punjab and Sindh, has bigger plans for years ahead.
“We aim to be the largest player in the market,” the CEO said while talking about its expansion plans.
With Additional input from Nida Jaffery