* Boycott began on Sept. 30 due to political tensions
* Indian films popular in Pakistan, cinema audience dropped
* Movie theatres hold quiet relaunch with little publicity
By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan, Dec 19 Pakistani movie
theatres began screening Bollywood films again on Monday, ending
an 11-week boycott in response to political and military
tensions with India, theatre officials said.
Some theatre owners said the restoration was because tension
was easing, but others said it was because audiences had dropped
so sharply since the boycott that began on Sept. 30.
In Karachi, the Atrium Cinema started with a screening of
the Indian sports romantic comedy "Freaky Ali". Still, the
screenings were kept low key, with no publicity posters and
scant attendance in theatres visited by Reuters.
Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours and foes have
been more fraught than usual since an crackdown by Indian
security forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in
The tension worsened in September after militants killed 18
soldiers in a raid on an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi
blamed on Pakistan.
After exchanges of fire across the Line of Control in
Kashmir - claimed by both countries and occupied in part by each
- cinema owners announced the boycott.
Pakistan's state censor soon imposed a ban on Indian content
and channels on cable television.
However, the boycott has cost Pakistani cinemas dearly.
"The absence of Bollywood content from theatres resulted in
losing over 80 percent of customers," estimated Khurram
Gultasab, general manager at Super Cinemas, which runs 10
cinemas in cities across Pakistan's Punjab province.
Indian films are popular both at the cinema and on
bootlegged DVDs in Pakistan.
"If Bollywood films are not resumed, cinemas will be forced
to close down," Gultasab said.
Nadeem Mandviwalla, whose Mandviwalla Entertainment runs
eight cinemas in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad, said the
resumption of Bollywood films was a step towards warming
"Someone has to take a step towards bringing normalcy back
so we have initiated the process to bring back peace and
harmony," Mandviwalla said.
"As for losses, everyone knows that the suspension (of the
boycott) is going to curtail huge losses on both sides."
Pakistan's domestic film industry has seen a revival in
recent years, but is dwarfed by India's Bollywood. Pakistani
actors have increasingly been appearing in big budget Bollywood
films in the past few years.
(Editing by Kay Johnson and Alison Williams)