Pakistan's 40 year ban on the exhibition of Indian films ended this weekend with a screening of Sohni Mahiwal, a Bollywood classic made in 1984. In addition to signaling improved relations between the two nations, the decision is also expected to provide a great lift to the domestic film industry in Pakistan. Though that result is initially somewhat counter-intuitive, the fact is that the Bollywood ban devastated Pakistan's film community - once it began, audiences, more interested in watching pirated copies of Bollywood films than going to the cinemas, stayed home. Fewer viewers meant less demand; theaters closed and fewer films were made. There are only 270 movie theaters in Pakistan today, less than a quarter of the number that existed in the 1970s, and an industry that regularly produced about 300 films a year just a few decades ago turned out only 18 in 2005.

Not surprisingly, the change in the law comes as a great relief to those within Pakistan's film industry, a group that has pushed for the ban to be lifted for years. And, while some restrictions on the films allowed in are expected to be maintain, those in Bollywood are nevertheless thrilled to have renewed access to an audience that is 162 million strong.