Movies & TV

How COVID-19 has Harmed the Philippine Movie Industry

The film industry in at a standstill.

With lives threatened by the thousands by an unseen killer virus, quarantines and lockdowns are in place.

The measures are government's way of flattening the curve of the spread of the novel coronavirus-2019, with Luzon on quarantine since March 16, 2020. It is still in effect.

With that, the entire art and entertainment industry is at a standstill.

Work on films and television is suspended. Events to introduce shows and stars are cancelled. Large gatherings—movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, community assemblies, and all non-essential work-related activities—are prohibited.

With the shooting of films, taping of television shows, and showing of live shows on hold, companies providing light, audio and video technology for production have no business to speak of.

With production shut down, so is the livelihood of writers and directors, who are supported by the so-called gig economy, where the next gig determines whether bills are paid or not.

Also falling under the gig economy are freelancers—cameramen, technicians, gaffers, lightmen, set designers—who are paid per day under a “no work, no pay” arrangement.


Times are definitely bad for these entertainment-industry workers. So bad that the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has created the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Program.

The program will disburse a one-time cash financial assistance worth P8,000, tax-free, to each beneficiary.

Openly admitting this is a gargantuan task, FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra said, in a report dated March 29, 2020: "Right now, we have P20 million. Ang target naming matulungan ay 50,000 workers. Kaya kailangan namin ng P400 million.”

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COVID-19's Impact on the Movie Industry

Just how big is the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Philippine movie industry?


Cinemas are still expected to be deserted for weeks, even months, to come—what with 5,453 confirmed COVID cases in the Philippines as of April 15.

This is a devastating blow to a sector already under stress even before COVID-19.

Already, the emergence of streaming providers Netflix, iFlix, and iWant have begun to replace the moviegoing experience.


And with the threat of the dreaded coronavirus looming until a preventive vaccine is found, consumers are likely to turn to streaming entertainment at home instead of entering cinema houses.

The major movie studios in the Philippines, while floundering, are not just sitting it out. They are considering new strategies for distributing their films.

Regal Entertainment is making its library of films available for free on its official YouTube channel.

Fans can now watch iconic films like Sabel (2004) top-billed by Judy Ann Santos; Sisa (1999) starring Aya Medel; and Temptation Island (1980) starring former beauty queens Azenith Briones, Jennifer Cortez, and Bambi Arambulo, with Dina Bonnevie.

TBA Studios has also uploaded some of its films in full on YouTube.

Viewers can now watch Bliss (2017) by Jerrold Tarog; Gayuma (2015) by Cesar Hernando; and Patintero: Ang alamat ni Meng Patalo (2015) by Mihk Vergara.

Individual filmmakers have likewise made their works available on websites and social media.


Viewers can use YouTube to watch Bar Boys (2017) by Kip Oebanda and Yanggaw (2008) by Richard Somes. Movies of Jay Altarejos, such as TPO (2016) and Tale of the Lost Boys (2017), are available via the Facebook page of 2076Kolektib ( and

Meanwhile, here is a chart showing the impact of the COVID-19 disease on the box-office industry over several countries.

The chart is based on data from Comscore, an American media measurement and analytics company that provides marketing data and analytics to media and advertising agencies.

This industry analyst is able to collect box office results—including weekend box office estimates and attendance information—from more than 125,000 screens in more than 25,000 theatres across the globe.

Comscore shows that, in the Philippines, there has been a staggering 47.52 percent drop in box-office earnings. This is comparing earnings of the same period last year (January to March 12, 2019).

Some data in the chart are also taken from reports of

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Based on last year’s forecast, the Philippine movie industry was poised to earn, for the year 2020, $36 million dollars (equivalent to P1.821 billion).

This data was released in a September 2019 report of Statista, a global provider of market and consumer data.

Statista Research & Analysis provides statistics, consumer survey results, and industry studies from over 22,500 sources on over 60,000 topics on the internet's leading statistics database.


So, yes, definitely—the impact of COVID-19 on the local entertainment industry is huge. It is, in fact, as harmful to the industry as it has been to human lives the world over.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by editors.

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