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Cinema returns to Kashmir after 32 years of intermission

Shiraz Cinema, shut for over three decades, has long been a shelter for armed forces. It is a shared fate for cinemas since 1990 when the insurgency erupted in Kashmir. But the long and almost entirely uninterrupted spell of shutdown of theatres is about to end, with cinema chain INOX opening a multiplex in Srinagar in the first week of September.

The multiplex, which includes three screens with a combined seating capacity of 520 people, is located near the headquarters of the Indian Army’s 15 Corps in a high-security zone.

Its owner, Vijay Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit, thought of multiplex as a venture four years ago. “The movie business is in my blood since we ran Broadway Cinema in Srinagar till 1990. While discussing entertainment options for youth at home, we felt movies have a rich history in Kashmir,” he says.

Until 1990 Kashmir had scores of movie theatres, but with the rise of militancy every building was forced shut. The then state government led by Farooq Abdullah attempted to reopen two cinema halls — Neelam and Broadway — in 1999-2000. Broadway was shut again within a few months.

Neelam Cinema soldiered on as the last functional theatre until it shut for good in 2010. Cine goers had a narrow escape when militants targeted the cinema on September 7, 2005. Two militants and a policeman were killed in the incident.

Alok Tandon, chief executive officer, INOX Leisure, promises that the multiplex will boast top-notch cinema technology and audience comforts.

In August 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir government unveiled its first-ever film policy months after the J&K Film Development Council (JKFDC) was set up to attract Bollywood. One of the main aims of the policy is to reopen closed cinemas and set up multiplexes in the Valley. Business Standard

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