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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Pirated Star Wars hits Pakistan

By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Star Wars collection on sale in Pakistan
A five-in-one $2 DVD of earlier episodes is also selling well
The pirated edition of the latest Star Wars episode has finally appeared in Pakistan, five days after it was released in cinemas worldwide.

A police crackdown - Pakistan is one of the top 10 producers of pirated DVDs - caused the delay.

Karachi retailers sold hundreds of copies in under an hour late Monday as many people had already booked copies.

"Pakistan-wide sales are expected to be around 50,000 copies within the first two weeks," one leading retailer said.


The appearance of Revenge of the Sith - the sixth and final edition of George Lucas' epic galactic adventure - in the city's pirate market "was well behind schedule", retailers told the BBC News website.

Things are improving once again - we are expecting 30 new movies this week
Karachi retailer

Most new English-language movies are pirated within 48 hours of their release, they say. Indian movies, by comparison, are released in Pakistan's pirate market three days before their legal release in Indian cinemas.

The delay has occurred because of a recent crackdown on replication facilities in the city.

Three of Karachi's estimated 11 replication facilities were raided by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) earlier in the month.

The owner and manager of one facility were arrested and more than 300,000 pirated DVDs were recovered from the three plants.

Pirate DVD fetches at least $1 in Pakistan, $10 abroad
Over 13m pirate copies exported a month
About 230m replica discs made every year
Domestic piracy market worth $27m a year
Annual cost to copyright holders - at least $2.7bn
IFPI estimated figures

Retailers say their business was badly hurt as no new releases hit the market for nearly two weeks after the raid.

"Things are improving once again," said one retailer. "We are expecting 30 new movies this week."

But despite the resumption in supply, the effects of the raids are still visible. For one, Revenge of the Sith is not being openly displayed in shops.

Shopkeepers say they are wary of offering it to new customers as they may well be FIA agents in disguise.

Prices up

Pressure from the authorities has also made pirated versions more expensive. Previously sold for $1.50, new movies are now selling for just over $2.

Pirated Indian DVDs
Pirated Indian DVDs are also big business in Pakistan

But no one is complaining. The cinema industry in Pakistan has all but collapsed and cinema owners say they cannot afford to import movies until they are at least two years old.

Star Wars fans are only too happy to spend the additional half dollar to avoid the long wait.

Shopkeepers say Revenge of the Sith has done the briskest business in Karachi since the Return of the King - the last part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Not only that, the concluding Star Wars episode has also given them a chance to resell the earlier five episodes.

These earlier episodes have all been put into one DVD (costing $2), and shopkeepers say a large number of customers are buying the five-in-one DVD along with the latest release.

Retailers are now anxiously awaiting Nazar, a steamy Indian romance featuring the famous Pakistani actress Meera.

They are confident that the controversy generated by some of the lewder scenes in the movie will ensure good sales.


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