Arts & Entertainment

What’s Next For the Philippine Film Industry, Now 100 Years Old?

Wilfredo Manalang of the FDCP talks about why movie openings will be moved to Fridays, and the other initiatives of the Council.
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As the nation continues to celebrate the centennial of Philippine Cinema, things are just about to get better according to the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).

FDCP Chairperson Liza Diño-Seguerra announced in a Facebook post on March 14 that cinemas and producers have agreed to move the opening day for new films in the Philippines from Wednesdays to Fridays.

She called this “the first big step” to support and uphold the local filmmaking industry, indicating that there still is indeed a lot more to work on but there's been good progress so far.

Wilfredo Manalang, executive director of the FDCP, talked to Esquire Philippines and shared why such a move is needed for the Philippine film industry to thrive.

“With the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, HOOQ, IFlix, and others, the viewing habits of the Filipino audience is changing fast,” he said.

During one of the meetings, there is one experience shared that shed light on why new movies open on Wednesdays in the country.

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Attributing to an idea by Vincent “Ting” Nebrida of the TBA Film Studios, Manalang believes weekday premieres gave more foot traffic to malls in the ‘80s. But since moviegoers are on the decline these days, Manalang says this formula may not hold up anymore for independent or small filmmakers, especially those that don’t have a star-studded cast.

A long list of FDCP’s initiatives

The change in opening day schedule is just the beginning. The FDCP, through the continuous dialogues it holds with its stakeholders, is pushing for other initiatives that will benefit filmmakers, distributors, and even viewers.

“We basically need to attract people to go to the cinemas again... And we need to make the Filipino films compete equally with the big blockbuster films from Hollywood. At the same time, we hope the Filipino audience will support the industry,” Manalang said.

Among its long list of initiatives, the FDCP is addressing the first day/ last day issue or what local films, especially the indie ones, suffer from when they get pulled out from the theaters after just a day. This happens when they receive poor ticket sales on the first day of showing.

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Manalang also mentioned booking schedules, sliding programming (where two movies share one theater in a day), and fair and balanced programming between local and foreign films among the issues they are focusing on.

“Basically what FDCP is bringing to the table is developing together with all the stakeholders a standard for booking and distribution in our theaters,” he added.

In the same vein, Diño-Seguerra said, in her Facebook post on March 14, that FDCP’s organized dialogues are held to discuss and highlight important policy guidelines regarding “admission prices, guaranteed days in every booked film, and a holdback period for films released in cinemas before it goes to other platforms like VOD, etc.”

But why only now?

The FDCP, created through Republic Act 9167, was established in 2002 as the government agency responsible to ensure the effective representation of economic, cultural, and educational aspects of films both here and abroad. It will celebrate its 17th foundation day in June this year.

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“The council already had several chairpersons, and like any other government agencies, depending on their vision and focus, that becomes the direction of the agency,” Manalang said.

Diño-Seguerra’s strategy is to get to know the industry players first, get a grasp of their needs, then strike a conversation with them to better understand how the council can assist them. Then, they bring together all concerned parties to talk about the issues and  reach a better resolution, Manalang explained.

“It is not easy, believe me. Everyone operates on a different wavelength with different needs,” he admitted. But he says it was because of this that they’ve realized the need for proper networking and lobbying—and it is paying off since it was through this technique that the opening day agreement was settled.

“This year we're even looking at film production and finding ways to support the creation of intellectual properties and other content. We're even delving [into] animation, a neglected industry with huge potential,” Manalang added.

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The council is making conscious efforts to keep up with the global filmmaking industry. Manalang said the key is to “upgrade and dream bigger,” so that the Philippines will also be competitive like the other countries.

“It's our 100 Years of Philippine Cinema, what better way to start the next 100 years than to keep up with the times and make drastic changes?”

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Pauline Macaraeg
Esquire Philippines
Pauline is Esquire Philippines’ data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg.
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