Cinema of Pakistan
|Cinema of Pakistan|
|Number of screens||319 (2009)|
|• Per capita||0.2 per 100,000 (2009)|
|Main distributors||ARY Films
|Produced feature films|
|Cinema of Pakistan|
|Part of a series on the|
Pakistan Monument, Islamabad
|List of Pakistani films|
|1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
|1960 1961 1962 1963 1964
1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
|1970 1971 1972 1973 1974
1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
|1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
|1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
|2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
|2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
The Cinema of Pakistan, or simply, Pakistani Cinema (Urdu: پاکستانی سنیما) refers to Pakistan's film industry. Most of the feature films shot in Pakistan are in Urdu, the national language, but may also include films in English, the official language, and regional languages such as Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, and Sindhi. Lahore was the epicentre of Pakistani cinema and Pakistan's largest film industry was Lollywood.
Before the separation of Bangladesh, Pakistan had three main film production centres: Lahore, Karachi and Dhaka. Dhaka as a film centre was lost after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, VCRs, film piracy, the introduction of entertainment taxes, and Islamic laws and the subsequent 'Islamization' of Pakistani society, have been some of the many obstacles to the industry's growth. Once thriving, the cinema in Pakistan had a sudden collapse in the 1980s and by the 2000s "an industry that once produced an average of 80 films annually was now struggling to even churn out more than two films a year."
- 1 History
- 2 Decline of cinema theatres
- 3 The New Wave of Pakistani Cinema: 2013 and Onwards
- 4 Pakistan's first Cineplex
- 5 Domestic film industries
- 6 Film festivals
- 7 Notable figures in the industry
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Independence and growth (1947–1958)
Immediately following the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the newly founded Pakistan being a new state faced a shortage of funds. Shortage of filming equipment further paralysed the nation's film industry.
With much hardships faced, the new film industry was able to produce its first feature, Teri Yaad on 7 August, 1948, premièring at the Parbhat Theatre in Lahore. In 1946 Eveready Pictures was established by J.C Anand which became the largest film production and distribution company in Pakistan. The following year, Evernew Studios established a studio in the country. Over the next few years, films that were released reached mediocre success until the release of Do Ansoo on 7 April 1950. Do Ansoo became the first film to attain a 25-week viewing making it the first film to reach silver jubilee status.
Recovery was evident with Noor Jehan's directorial debut Chanwey releasing on 29 April 1951. The film became the first to be directed by a female director. Syed Faqir ahmad Shah produced his first production 1952. Though "Jagga Daku" Saqlain Rizvi was the director, the film could not get much appreciation due to violence shown in it. As cinema viewership increased, Sassi released on 3 June 1954 by Eveready Pictures reached golden jubilee status staying on screens for 50-weeks. Legendary playback singer Ahmed Rushdi started his career in April 1955 after singing his first song in Pakistan "Bander Road Se Kemari".Umar Marvi released on 12 March 1956 became the first Pakistani film made in the Sindhi language. To celebrate the success of these endeavours, film journalist Ilyas Rashidi launched an annual awarding event on July 17, 1958. Named Nigar Awards, the event is since then considered Pakistan's premier awarding event celebrating outstanding performance in various categories of filmmaking.
The Golden Age (1959–1977)
The '60s decade is often cited as being the golden age of cinema in Pakistan. Many A-stars were introduced. in this period in time and became legends on the silver screen. As black-and-white became obsolete, Pakistan saw the introduction of first colour films. Some that share the status of being firsts are Munshi Dil's Azra in the early 1960s, Zahir Raihan's Sangam (first full-length coloured film) released on 23 April 1964, and Mala (first coloured cinemascope film).
Although it seemed that the industry had stabilised to a certain extent, the relations between the two neighbouring countries were not. On 26 May 1961, Kay Productions released a film titled Bombay Wallah, which did not came under scrutiny from the censor board for having a name that represented a city in India in the wake of the growing tension between the region. Later, the censor board was blamed for irresponsibility. It was the first time that a Pakistani film explored the realms of politics, but it would not be the last. In 1962, Shaheed aka Martyr, pronounced the Palestine issue on the silver screen and became an instant hit. With the changing tide in the attitude of filmmakers, actress Mussarat Nazir who had reigned the industry for a while left for Canada and settled with her family. Her much anticipated Bahadur was left unfinished and never released, giving alternative films like Syed Kamal's debutant acting role in Tauba to be admired and fill the void. In 1962 Pakistans most versatile actor Mohammad ali debut his acting career in Charagh jalta raha; it was premiered by Fatima Jinnah on March 9, 1962 at Nishat Cinema, Karachi.
In September 1965, following an armed conflict between India and Pakistan, all Indian films were taken off the screen from cinemas in Pakistan and a complete ban was imposed on the Indian films. The ban existed since 1952 in West Pakistan and since 1962 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), but was exercised rigorously after the conflict. Pakistani cinemas did not suffer much from the decision to remove the films and instead received better viewership. Realising the potential, Waheed Murad stepped into the industry. His persona led people to call him the "chocolate hero" and in essence, he became the Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley of Pakistan.
In 1966, film Armaan was released and became one of the most cherished accomplishments of the industry. It is said to have given birth to Pakistani pop music introducing playback singing legends – composer Sohail Rana and singer Ahmed Rushdi. The film became the first to complete 75-weeks screenings at cinema houses throughout the country attaining a platinum jubilee. Another rising star Nazeer Beg with th stage-name Nadeem received instant success with his debut in Chakori in 1967. The same year, he would act in another film of a different genre. Horror films were introduced with the release of Zinda Laash aka The Living Corpse making it the first to display an R rating tag on its posters.
Meanwhile Eastern Films Magazine, a tabloid edited by Said Haroon, became the most popular magazine for film buffs in Pakistan. The magazine had a questions and answers section titled "Yours Impishly" which the sub-editor Asif Noorani took inspiration for from I. S. Johar's page in India's Filmfare magazine. Tabloids like these got their first controversial covers with the release of Neela Parbat on 3 January 1969, which became Pakistan's first feature-film with an adults-only tag. It ran for only three-to-four days at the box office.
More controversial yet would be the offering of distribution rights in the Middle East to the Palestinian guerrilla organisation, Al Fatah, by the writer, producer, and director Riaz Shahid for his film Zarqa released on 17 October 1969. It depicted the activities of the organisation.
Age of the Disaster (includes VCR) (1977–1988)
Following the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Pakistani film industry lost its Dacca wing and the number of cinema decreased rapidly. The period saw the exodus of more influential workers in the industry for the newly found Bangladesh. This caused another serious brain drain. Veterans like Runa Laila departed for Bangladesh, and the Pakistani industry was at the brink of disaster yet again.
Amidst concerns of a collapse, the film Dosti, released on 7 February 1971, turned out to be the first indigenous Urdu film to complete 101 weeks of success at the box office, dubbing it the first recipient of a diamond jubilee. However, it is reported that the first diamond jubilee status was celebrated by the Punjabi film Yakke Wali in 1957.
As political uncertainty took charge of the entertainment industry, filmmakers were asked to consider socio-political impacts of their films as evident by the fact that the makers of Tehzeeb, released on 20 November 1971, were asked to change the lyrics with a reference to Misr, Urdu for Egypt, that might prove detrimental to diplomatic relations of Egypt and Pakistan. So vulnerable was the film industry to the changing political landscape that in 1976, an angry mob set fire to cinema in Quetta just before the release of the first Balochi film, Hamalo Mah Gunj, which was to be filmed in the same cinema.
The mid-1970s saw the introduction of video cassette recorders in Pakistan. Suddenly films from all over the world were copied onto tape. Attendance at cinemas decreased when people preferred to watch films in the comfort of their homes. This ushered the birth of a piracy industry: Films began to be copied on tapes on the day they premiered in cinemas.
Javed Jabbar's Beyond the Last Mountain, released on 2 December 1976, was Pakistan’s first venture into English film-making. The Urdu version Musafir did not do well at the box office. While the industry was revolutionising, Pakistan's government was in a state of turmoil. Aina, released on 18 March 1977, marked a distinct symbolic break between the so-called liberal Zulfikar Ali Bhutto years and the increasingly conservative cum revolutionary Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq regime. The film stayed in cinemas for over 400 weeks, with its last screening at 'Scala' in Karachi where it ran for more than four years. It is considered the most popular film in the country's history to date.
Politics, Islamisation and downfall (1979–1987)
Following Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's military coup, he began to Islamicise the country and one of the first victims of this socio-political change included the film industry. Imposition of new registration laws for film producers requiring filmmakers to be degree holders, where not many were, led to a steep decline in the workings of the industry. The government forcibly closed most of the cinemas in Lahore. New tax rates were introduced, further decreasing cinema attendances.
Films dropped from a total output of 98 in 1979, of which 42 were in Urdu, to only 58 films (26 in Urdu) in 1980. The filmmakers that remained employed flaccid storylines to present Punjabi cult classics like Maula Jatt in 1979, telling the story of a gandasa-carrying protagonist waging a blood-feud with a local gangster. Growing censorship policies against displays of affection, rather than violence, came as a blow to the industry. As a result, violence-ridden Punjabi films prevailed and overshadowed the Urdu cinema. The middle class neglected the 'increasingly dilapidated and rowdy cinemas'. This film sub-culture came to be known as the gandasa culture in the local industry. Where veterans of this culture Sultan Rahi and Anjuman, became iconic figure in the Punjabi films, Pashto cinema took on a contrasting façade. Backed by powerful politicians, Pashto filmmakers were able to get around the censor policies and filled their films with soft-core pornography to increase viewership. This threw away the romantic and loveable image of Pakistani cinema and fewer people were attracted to going to a cinema. Being a female actor associated with film productions became an understandable taboo. Nevertheless, the influx of refugees from across the Afghani border, who were denied the entertainment in their country, kept the industry strongly active.
When it seemed the industry could not be further deteriorated, following years saw yet another blow to the fatal collapse. Waheed Murad, oft termed the "chocolate hero" died in 1983 due to alcohol abuse and stomach cancer; some say he committed suicide. Media attributes the star's death to his disheartened view in the wake of Pakistani cinema's collapse. Director of his unfinished film Hero, employed 'cheat shots' to complete the last of this legend's memorable films to a packed audience. This enthusiasm soon disappeared and not even Pakistan's first science fiction film, Shaani, in 1989, directed by Saeed Rizvi employing elaborate special effects, could save the industry from failing. It received an award at the Moscow Film Festival and even in Egypt and Korea, but sadly was shelved in its country of origin.
At the start of the 1990s, Pakistan's film industry was gripped with certain doom. Of the several studios only 11 were operational in the '70s and '80s producing around 100 films annually. This number would lower further as studio went towards producing short-plays and television commercials and let the industry astray in the wake of cable television. By the early '90s, the annual output dropped to around 40 films, all produced by a single studio. Other productions would be independent of any studio usually financed by the filmmakers themselves.
The local industry succeeded to gain audience attention however in the mid- and late-1990s. Haathi Meray Saathi produced and distributed by Eveready Pictures celebrated its Golden Jubilee bringing audience back to the cinema for 66 weeks Another big runner wasSyed Noor's JeevaSaeed Rizvis "SARKATA INSAAN" first Pakistani Horror and Fiction, in 1997 Saeed Rizvi created "TILISMIH JAZIRA" First Joint Venture between Soviet Union & Pakistan,and Samina Peerzada's Inteha, it seemed the cinema of Pakistan was headed towards a much needed revival but naught attendance recorded at the box-office for later ventures ushered a complete and utter collapse of the industry. Notable productions of the time include Deewane Tere Pyar Ke, Mujhe Chand Chahiye, Sangam, Tere Pyar Mein, and Ghar Kab Aao Gay, which tried hard to get away from the formulaic and violent storylines but were not accepted fully amongst the lower middle class cinema audience.
Controversy raged over the filming of Jinnah in the late 1990s, a film produced by Akbar Salahuddin Ahmed and directed by Jamil Dehlavi. Objections were raised over the choice of actor Christopher Lee as the protagonist depicting Muhammad Ali Jinnah and inclusion of Indian Shashi Kapoor as archangel Gabriel in the cast combined with the experimental nature of the script. Imran Aslam, editor of The News International, said the author wrote the script in a "haze of hashish". Of all the controversies and hearsay, the film proved a point that Indian and Pakistani filmmakers and actors can collaborate on any such cinematic ventures without the ban being lifted. Later years would see more actors travels traveling in and across the border on further cross-border ventures.
Late '80s had seen the death of Murad and towards 1989, Anjuman got married to Mobeen Malik, quitting from playback signing and finally Sultan Rahi was murdered in 1996. The already reeling industry lost viewership not just for its Urdu but Punjabi films following Rahi's death. Director Sangeeta attended to her family life and Nazrul Islam[disambiguation needed] died during the time. The industry was pronounced dead by the start of the new millennium. Syed Noor depressed at the sudden decline of cinema gathered investors for what was considered the only Pakistani film to have survived this chaos.
The year 1998 saw the release of Noor's Choorian, a Punjabi film that grossed 180 million rupees. Directors realised there was still hope and Javed Sheikh's Yeh Dil Aap Ka Huwa released in 2002 grossing over 200 million rupees (US $3.4 million) across Pakistan. The monetary prospects were then realised fully and for the first time in twelve years, investors starting taking keen interest in Pakistani films.
However, the short period of successes in the industry could not keep the cinemas afloat, and the same industry that at one time produced more than a 100 films annually a decade ago was now reduced to merely 32 per year, in the year 2003, with only one partial success called Larki Panjaban (A Punjabi Girl). In August, 2007, a new film titled Khuda Ke Liye was released. It became popular due to its controversial theme of the current problems faced in Pakistan. It was also released internationally, including in India, where it became the first Pakistani film released after four decades
In early 2003, young filmmakers took on a stance to demonstrate that high quality content could be produced by the local film industry using the limited resources available. Cinema was declining in all major cities of the nation and a need for revival was echoed in the media. With privatisation of television stations in full swing, a new channel Filmazia was broadcast, primarily to broadcast films and productions made indigenously in the country. It was during this time that Mahesh Bhatt, a celebrated Indian director visited Pakistan looking for talent, particularly singers who could lend their voices to his upcoming films in India. His visit to Pakistan was to attend the third Kara Film Festival, for the screenings of his film Paap in Karachi. Bhatt would later hire Atif Aslam for the soundtrack of his film Zeher and Pakistani actress Meera to play a lead-role in one of his films.
Later in 2005, industry officials realised that the government needed to lift the ban for the screening of Bollywood films in Pakistan. The issue was voiced by the Film Producers Association (FPA) and the Cinema Owners Association (CAO) of Pakistan after the release of the colourised remastering of the 1960 classic Mughal-e-Azam. However, release of Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story was granted. The film was released by Eveready Pictures and did record business at the box office. When the government turned down the request, Geo Films, a subsidiary of Geo TV took on itself to invest in upcoming Pakistani directorial ventures, dubbed their efforts “Revival of Pakistani Cinema” and on 20 July 2007 released Shoaib Mansoor's cinematic directorial début Khuda Ke Liye (In The Name of God). It would become the first Pakistani film since the imposition of the ban in 1965 to be released in both India and Pakistan. With its general release in India, the four-decade ban was lifted. The film was released in more than a 100 cinemas in 20 cities in India.
Decline of cinema theatres
Since 1995, the government of Pakistan has kept a close eye on the decrease of cinema halls and theatres in the country. Below is a chronological index of cinemas in Pakistan from 1995 to 2002. The country boasted 750 cinema theatres in 1990 (even more before then), but that number had declined to 175 by 2002. The remaining cinemas are reported to be in very poor condition, and in desperate need of attention. Numbers below do not include cinemas in Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas.
|Dera Ismail Khan District||3||3||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|Dera Ghazi Khan District||18||18||19||19||19||12||10||11|
|Mirpur Khas District||25||25||22||22||22||22||22||19|
|Islamabad Capital Territory|
Despite some optimism of a solid revival at the turn of the millennium, progress continued to be slow. Alongside Geo Films continued efforts with their 'Revival of cinema', the Pakistan New Cinema Movement was launched in 2009. With around 1400 members PNCM is a grassroots organization that facilitates networking and publishes articles to stimulate production.
Several film projects were announced but few of them saw the light of day. Filmstar Shan's directorial project Chup introducing model Juggun Kazim to the silver screen; Syed Noor's Price of Honor based reportedly on the Mukhtara Mai rape incident; Khamaj fame music video director Safdar Malik's directorial debut Ajnabi Sheher mein stars Nadeem, Samina Peerzada, Ali Zafar and Model Tooba Malik; Shehzad Gul's Iman starring Shan and Nirma, actor Humayun Saeed's debut production BALAA with the support of Vishesh Films (Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt) to be directed by script writer of Indian films Woh Lamhe and Raaz the mystery continues; Shagufta Rafique (talks are on with Indian actress Tabu for the title role and Iman Ali and Juggan Kazim in Pakistan); Salman Peerzada's Zargul — a major festival circuit success might see mainstream release. Shoaib Mansoor is to bring his second film Bol with stars Atif Aslam, Mahira Khan and Juggan Kazim. Also coming are Syed Faisal Bokhari's Bhai Log; Shehzad Rafique's second film Mene Jeena Tere Naal with Veena Malik and Adnan Khan; TV producer Ejaz Bajwa's film directorial debut Channa Sachi Muchi starring Babar Ali, Momi Rana and Saima; Indo-Pak-American co-production Virsa starring Arya Babbar from India and Mehreen Raheal from Pakistan will be releasing in Pakistan and India after its world premier at the Dallas International Film Festival (the director, Pankaj Batra is Indian).
Iqbal Kashmiri's second film Devdas remake of Indian film, Devdas, and Bengali novel, starring Zara Sheikh, Meera and Nadeem Shah. Son of Pakistan is based on terrorism in Pakistan and written, directed and produced by Jarar Rizvi; it features Shamyl Khan, Sana Nawaz and Meera in lead roles. Aamir Zafar, a filmmaking student, debuts as director with Victim which features Humayun Saeed and Irtiza Ruhab in lead roles. Syed Faisal Bukhari's second film Saltanat featuring Lollywood debut Mona Laizza (who also does an item number), Javed Sheikh and Ahsan Khan is finally scheduled for a release in 2014. Shaan Shahid's second film, script by Mashal Peezada featuring Vaneeza Ahmed and Natasha. Tamanna, a UK-Pakistani production shot entirely in Pakistan with the soundtrack featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and written by veteran playwright Munnu Bhai is to be released in 2011.
Syed Noor and his wife Saima began work on a comedy Wohti le ke Jani Hai which was released in 2010. Reema Khan's directorial project based on Paulo Coehlo's Veronica Decides to Die was released in 2011. Another film worth mentioning is 'Bhai Log' which did reasonably good business in Pakistan when it was released in 2011.
The New Wave of Pakistani Cinema: 2013 and Onwards
If Shoaib Mansoor's Bol led to the phrase 'Revival of Pakistani Cinema', the year 2013 brought with it seven Pakistani films that were theatrically released in Pakistan, and led commentators to ponder whether it was time to announce the heralding of a 'new wave' of Pakistani cinema. Since 2011 from the digital scene two films have stood out with box office success as highest grossing Pakistani films; Waar followed by Main Hoon Shahid Afridi. However, as some commentators cautioned, declaring a film a 'hit' or a 'flop' is determined by the relationship of the budget spent and box office returns of a film and therefore several of the top grossing films of Pakistan were technically not a 'hit'. Nonetheless, the lack of box office returns of a Pakistani film has less to do with the film itself but more to do with the severely limited number of screens in Pakistan. Another film, Zinda Bhaag (Run for your Life, 2013) has been critically acclaimed with reviewers calling it 'the best film to have come out of modern day Pakistani cinema' and a "new metaphor for Pakistani cinema" that "bode(d) well for the possibility of noteworthy Pakistani imports in years to come". Zinda Bhaag went on to be Pakistan's official submission to the Oscars (Foreign Film Category), the first after a gap of fifty years but did not make the final shortlist nominees.
The resurgence of new Pakistani film productions centers around the use of digital equipment and makes use of cheaper distribution with DCP compliant cinemas which started to convert around 2011, increasing rapidly to 2014 with around 30 cinemas nationwide.
Pakistan's first Cineplex
As a city, Karachi began to grow at a fast pace in the late 60's, and the price of the property shot up significantly. At the peak of Pakistani cinema industry in the mid-1970s, Karachi alone had more than 100 cinema halls and more than 200 films were produced and released each year. Now, fewer than ten of these houses remain. The same happened a little later in Lahore as well. This caused the film industry to lose a lot of revenue, making the industry even less attractive for investment. Many professional financiers left the cinema industry of Pakistan.
The Universal Multiplex in Karachi opened in 2002. The future viability of film-making business in Pakistan is evidenced by the fact that now many global companies are interested in investing in the theater business in the country. Cinepax is the first dedicated cineplex company in Pakistan. They are building the country’s first nationally branded cineplex chain. The firm says that it is dedicated to introduce a world-class, film-going experience to the people of Pakistan by building state-of-the-art film theaters in the urban areas. Cinepax will have multiple cinemas in each location and is committed to screening premium content in a family-friendly environment. Eventually, they intend to bring families back into the theaters by providing a quality experience, and assert that the multiplex culture can only help.
Cinepax is targeting the larger cities of Pakistan: Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, and Hyderabad. Cinepax’s has an initial five-year build-out plan for the development of 120 screens.
Cinepax screens Hollywood films within a month of their international release dates. Cinepax will also screen the best of international and Pakistani cinema. Before the first cineplex opening, Cineplex’s sister distribution company will screen Hollywood content in the existing cinemas around Pakistan.
Domestic film industries
- Lahore film industry: Pakistan's largest domestic film industry is based in the city of Lahore. The industry was established in 1929 with the opening of the United Players Corporation Studios on Ravi Road (now Timber Market) in Lahore and mostly produces films in the Urdu and Punjabi languages. The industry was first called Lollywood in 1989 when the term appeared as a pun on the city's name in a now-defunct gossip magazine Glamour.
- Peshawar film industry: The film industry based in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the second largest in the country. It mostly produces Pashto and Urdu language feature films. The city itself has played a vital role in the development of the South Asian cinema with veteran Bollywood artistes like Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Vinod Khanna and Shahrukh Khan tracing their lineage to Peshawar.
- Karachi film industry: The film industry in the southern port-city of Karachi mostly produces films in Urdu. Some recent films have also been produced in the English and Sindhi languages. The catalyst in the rise of the Karachi film industry is attributed to the various independent film productions that have seen commercial success nationwide. Other specialised productions include documentaries and television films.
- Pahariwood: Pahariwood is the name of the Pothwari filming industry that is based in the city of Mirpur, Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. Films produced by Pahariwood are in the Pothwari language.
- Sindhi cinema: Sindhi movies, are films in Sindhi language or with Sindhi ethnic emphasis.
- KARA Film Festival, Karachi (suspended nowadays)
- LUMS Films Festival, Lahore
- Margalla Film Festival, Islamabad (started in 2012)
Notable figures in the industry
Pakistani actors and actresses
- Cinema of the world
- Nigar Awards - Pakistan's oldest film awards
- Kara Film Festival - International Film Festival held annually in Karachi
- Cinema in Karachi
- List of cinemas in Pakistan
- List of Pakistani films
- List of Pakistani actors
- List of Pakistani film actresses
- Shahnoor Studios - One of the oldest film studios in Lahore
- Cinema of Bangladesh
- Cinema of West Bengal
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- an industry that once produced an average of 80 films annually was now struggling to even churn out more than two films a year.
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- Bhai Log
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-  Pakistan's first cineplex chain
-  Cinepax goals
-  The Cinemas
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- The Central Film Censor Board of Pakistan - official site
- FILMAZIA - TV Channel showing Lollywood movies