Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair Liza Diño has weighed in on Erik Matti’s recent lament that the Philippine film industry is supposedly in “dire situation” because of low box-office sales.
On Facebook, Thursday, the director and co-founder of Reality Entertainment found the string of flop Pinoy movies “alarming.”
He wrote: “The state of our film industry, the business of it, is in a dire situation. Someone should do something about it. Government should intervene. This is not a slow death anymore. We are on life support and we need resuscitation. No more pointing fingers. I think we’re beyond that at this point. This is a plea for help.”
Noting that while the local film industry is at its busiest the past three years, Matti pointed out that studios, including the big ones, have not been doing “good business.”
“…No one gets to see the movies we make except for the sporadic mega hits. Hundreds of movies are being made now but no one is really doing good business including the big studios. What happened to our local audience?”
He further wrote in part: “The past three weeks several local movies were screened, including one of ours, and it didn’t make good business despite all the marketing fanfare….And instead of looking at the problem head on of the dwindling audience they just chose to deny it.”
The director then asked: “Is it the online platforms killing us? Is it support of cinemas? Is it Hollywood? Is it bad marketing? Is it esoteric, irrelevant, tired or uninteresting stories? Is it traffic? Is it downloads? Is it poverty? Has our audience outgrown our films? I really don’t know at this point.
“All I know is, we cannot go on making movies where no one sees them. We cannot blindly just trudge along busily working on our films without thinking about whether all this passion is really worth it. We cannot keep on spending millions for movies that no one gets to see. This is alarming. SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SOMEHOW SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.”
He also recognized film festivals as venues where filmmakers can showcase their craft.
“This industry nurtures its artists with our local filmfests. We look after our filmworkers with so many films being produced. We strengthen ties on our international filmfest connections. We revel on the little things we accomplish and splash it on big bold letters in the headlines.
“But are we really doing something for the film industry where it matters most? Are we really getting our films to the audience it was actually made for? Or are we just bringing them to the small audience we embarrassingly deserve?” he said.
At a press conference tendered to announce FDCP’s plans this year, Diño was asked what she thinks about the insight. She said the problem is that some local producers lack “distribution strategy,” resulting to lower box-office sales.
“Here in our country, the success of a film is based on how many cinemas it acquires. If they get 100 cinemas, the producers think they are successful even if no one watches,” she said.
Diño pointed out that other countries have films with “narrow releases.”
“Some films abroad start with a limited screenings because they know they have limited audiences. They test the audience first, until it goes bigger and bigger. That strategy could help lessen the ‘first day, last day’ screening issues,” she said.
“So let’s talk to the cinemas, let’s identify particular cinemas that will be available for longer run, like one week for example. In that case, the producer will not think about how they will promote the film in 100 cinemas, instead they have to think for at least 15 in the beginning.”
Reiterating that “this is not the perfect strategy,” Diño said Filipino filmmakers need to be realistic with the industry’s current situation.
She also pointed out that some producers “lack promotional campaigns.”
“We have Cine Lokal. But somehow it fails, why? Because once the producers give us the film, they simply let us do the promotional activities,” the FDCP chair said. “Some of the producers are not promoting their movies because they are assured that we won’t remove their films in cinemas for seven days. As much as I want to be idealistic, this is what FDCP is facing. It’s really sad.”
Diño reiterated that “business is business.”
Citing some data, she revealed that cinema admission in the country is down to 14%. Out of 110 million Filipinos, there are only 52 million admissions in cinemas recorded every year.
“Did you know that Korea has 220 million admissions every year for a 55 million population? Koreans watch at least four films a year,” she said though not citing her sources.
In the end, Diño asked all the stakeholders – directors, producers, cinema owners and audiences – to join forces in resolving the matter.
“Let’s not forget that this is not the fault of one entity. Let’s identify the problem, and all of us should work together to make all our wants and hopes be possible,” she said.
One of FDCP’s plans this year includes the launch of Box Office Online System Tracker (BOOST). It is a data based system that will show real-time gross box office of every film released in the country.
“FDCP has a partnership with Korean Film Council and we’ve been doing a lot of consultation with them on how we can create a system like this. One of our challenge here is that we don’t know how much film earns. With this system, will be able to get updates (on earnings) real time, as frequent as every 15 minutes,” she said.
Through the system, they hope to be able to monitor the audience’s viewing habits.
“Like, how much do indie films earn? In region 6, what kind of films do they watch? What time do they usually watch a film? What genre is most popular?” she said.