film industry editorial | Inquirer Opinion

Revitalizing the Filipino film industry

/ 05:15 AM February 23, 2024

The over P1 billion gross revenues from the recent Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) gave much-needed vigor to the local film industry which has been down in the slumps since the pandemic. The record-breaking box office take also boosted expectations that Philippine cinema is on its way to a revival and the local audience’s appetite for watching movies at the theater has returned.

The reality, however, is that the local movie industry is still struggling based on the performance of local films shown post-MMFF. There are reasons for this: cash flow from the holidays has dried up and inflation continues to affect household expenses with people prioritizing basic necessities over a movie ticket that now costs from P300 to as much as P1,000 for exclusive cinemas.

‘Cheapest’ form of entertainment

Film industry stakeholders like director Joel Lamangan are advocating for price cuts on regular movie tickets to lure the moviegoing public back. He said watching a movie at the cinema has ceased to be the “cheapest” form of entertainment. “Wala nang nagpo-produce dahil mahal na ng tickets. Dati ang sine, pinaka-cheap na entertainment. Pero ngayon isa na ito sa pinakamahal …” Lamangan said at a recent event organized by Free the Artist Movement. The cheapest movie ticket is half of the P610 minimum wage of a worker in Metro Manila, making moviegoing a lifestyle that only the middle and upper classes can afford. But an equally important factor is how the pandemic changed viewing habits with many preferring to wait for films to be released on streaming platforms—whose monthly subscription costs almost the same as a single movie ticket—instead of physically going to the cinemas to watch them. In these hard times, who can blame them?


Major export

Lamangan warned that the high cost of production and the low returns might discourage producers and eventually kill the Philippine film industry. Thousands of creatives and film workers may lose their livelihoods if this happens. BHW Rep. Angelica Natasha Co previously called on the government to cut local and national taxes imposed on movie production costs and to pour more resources into propping up the sector the way South Korea has transformed its creative industry into a major export.


In July 2022, Republic Act No. 11904, or the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act, lapsed into law. It establishes the Creative Industry Development Fund for research and development, trade promotion, human resource development in the creative industry, and protects the welfare and rights of artists, workers, and other stakeholders. This law is the perfect starting point if the government is serious about revitalizing the local film industry.

Critical praise

There are so many problems, aside from high production costs and expensive movie tickets, that beset the industry including piracy, the lackluster push for Philippine branding in the international market, and the wide skills gap and mismatch. There are so many talented homegrown Filipino creatives and it’s a loss if they are not honed and utilized to push the local industry forward. So much has changed since the golden era of Philippine cinema in the ’70s and ’80s, and the government should take advantage of advanced technology and media platforms to help local productions become more competitive on the world stage.

The first quarter of this year has already produced films that offer more than the usual fare and headlined by artists like young star Donny Pangilinan, and A-listers Aga Muhlach and Enrique Gil. Gil’s movie has received critical praise and, despite an R-16 MTRCB rating limiting its market share, is putting up a brave fight against foreign films simultaneously showing. Gil and Pangilinan also co-produced their respective films, indicating strong interest from artists to push for more innovative ideas to be translated on the big screen.

Big blockbusters

But they need institutional support. As Anima Studios consultant Joe Caliro said in the 2022 webinar “Is the Philippines the next global film production hub?”: “The only films that are actually getting attention are these big blockbusters. The smaller films just cannot make it in the cinemas. The irony is … I paid P900 to see a film. The cinemas should better figure out that you can’t be charging P900 for a single ticket to see a movie.”

Entertainment, while many may consider it frivolous and not as important as the environment or the economy, does contribute to a country’s global standing like it has done for South Korea, India, and Thailand. A thriving film and TV industry where more quality content is produced not only for the local audience but with an eye on the international market means more opportunities, more jobs, and more recognition for Filipino talents. Pushing boundaries could also change moviegoers’ mindsets that local productions are of poor quality. It all starts by supporting the local film industry.

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TAGS: Editorial, Film, opinion

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