Articles & Notes — January 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

Rumors of Philippino movie industry being dead – exaggerated?

Couple of years ago, many people predicted the death of Philippino cinema. With the continued dominance of Hollywood blockbusters and the influx of pirated videos, not a few wondered if the Philippino movie industry could ever bounce back to life.

The fans of course remembe the so-called “Golden Days” of Vietnam war related action movies which started to pile up in Philippines in the mid 80s and continued so up until the early 90s.

After the 1995-06, there was less and less, and soon it all seemed forgotten forever.

But if the long queues over the last year for movies like “No Other Woman”, “The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin”, and “Enteng ng Ina Mo” were any indication, there are reasons to believe that the local film sector is getting back on its feet.

The comedy “Praybeyt Benjamin”, starring comedian Vice Ganda, broke all box office records when it became the top-grossing local movie to date, with gross revenues hitting P331.61 million when it was shown in October.

The feat came just weeks after the adult drama “No Other Woman” – featuring Anne Curtis, Derek Ramsay, and Cristine Reyes – earned P278.39 million after it opened nationwide in September, according to Business World Weekender.

Then, just before 2011 ended, the fantasy-comedy “Enteng ng Ina Mo” – top billed by Vic Sotto and Ai Ai delas Alas – grossed P183.21 million since it opened on Christmas Day. This figure is expected to rise further as the movie continues to be shown this month.

Journalism professor and entertainment editor Nestor Cuartero said 2011 was indeed a banner year for local movies. “The very strong performance at the box office of these movies can only mean that things are looking up in the local movie industry,” Cuartero said in an interview.

Indeed, box-office revenues overall are estimated to have increased in 2011 by 30-40% from the previous year’s figures, when Ang Tanging Ina Mo (Last Na ‘To!) became the highest grossing Philippino movie of 2010 with P157 million.

National Cinema Association of the Philippines representative and former film producer Dominic Du said the resurgence in ticket sales is welcome news for the local movie industry, which has been hobbled by the domination of Hollywood movies, rampant piracy, and over-taxation.

“2011 has been an outstanding year for the domestic box office with two local movies earning more than P200 million,” Mr. Du said. “Earning more than P200 million used to be impossible for local movies. Only foreign movies used to earn that much. Finally, Philippino audiences are showing the same support for local movies as they had for Hollywood movies,” he added.

Du noted that much of the box-office success of Praybeyt Benjamin and No Other Woman could be attributed to the popularity of the lead actors.

“Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis are very popular among the young crowd. They have a lot of Facebook and Twitter followers. They have a lot of fans,” he said.

Vice Ganda became the first person in the country to have more than a million followers on Facebook, while Ms. Curtis earned the distinction of being the first Philippino to have a million followers on Twitter.

“If their fans rave about their movies on Facebook and Twitter, more people get curious, so more people go out and watch their movies,” he explained.

Du said the ability of Facebook and Twitter to provide instant feedback also made it possible for the two movies to earn so much in such a short amount of time. (“No Other Woman” earned P100 million after five days of public screenings, “Praybeyt Benjamin” reached the same milestone in three days.)

“People can instantly comment on the movies. If they like what they saw, they immediately recommend it to their friends in Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

Another reason for boosted box-office results is the ongoing efforts to battle the piracy in films.  Optical Media Board (OMB) stated that the flow of illegally copied DVDs and VCDs has been significantly reduced in recent months in the country.

What people want?

A 2010 study from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) entitled “Information Cascades as Social Learning: The Case of Box-Office Ticket Sales in the Philippines” by Jovi C. Dacanay, Maia Tyche King-Calvo, and Angelo Anastacio Santos, said Philippino audiences prefer watching pleasant, family entertainment movies created by reputable producers, and featuring popular actors.

“Aside from advertising in different media channels, and renting more theater screens, producers are encouraged to use brand names such as employing veteran actors, producing movie sequels, and/or utilizing the reputation of, or partnering with, a major producer as marketing strategies to perform well in the box office,” the study indicated.

“In terms of film creativity, local producers are encouraged to make movies that are in line with the comedy genre since most of these films are feel-good movies sought by many. Moreover, they are encouraged to make films that cater to a wider range of audiences,” it added.

The study’s findings could probably explain why “Enteng ng Ina Mo” led the box office race in the recent Metro Manila Film Festival.

Independent strength

Independent movies also earned big at the 2011 box office. Films with production budgets of just P1 million, “Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” (which earned P32.28 million) and “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank” (which earned P30.27 million), were definite box-office winners.

Box-office ticket sales are unpredictable and uncertain. But with the success of independent movies, we can say that audiences now support quality movies, even from outside mainstream producers. This is a good sign of how the industry will fare in the coming months.

Earning more than P200 million used to be impossible for local movies. Only foreign movies used to earn that much. Finally, Philippino audiences are showing the same support for local movies as they had for Hollywood movies.

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