Moviegoers’ choice: To watch or not to watch

Published October 19, 2021, 11:30 AM

by Rica Arevalo

IATF allows the re-opening of cinemas

Finally, movie cinemas are given the go-signal by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to operate at 30 percent indoor venue capacity. Are we ready to see “No Time to Die,” “Eternals,” “Spiderman: No Way Home,” “Dune,” and other local flicks on the big screen? We got in touch with some of our local film companies to share their thoughts on this development after almost a year and a half of “house arrest.”

Quark Henares, who heads Globe Studios, thinks a theatrical experience during the COVID-19 pandemic is possible. “I’ve experienced that firsthand in the Venice and Locarno film festivals,” he says. “Thousands of people came and I didn’t hear of any cases.”

Quark Henares (left) at the Locarno filmfest with the “Whether the Weather is Fine” team

The MBA graduate from the USC Marshall School of Business prefers the communal theatrical experience. “It’s like going to mass for me,” he says. “It’s about being together with other people and being told a story—almost a campfire experience on steroids.”

In the IATF guidelines, the moviegoers should follow the no eating/drinking, no holding hands, no removing of face mask, seats apart, and for fully vaccinated only rule.

Globe Studios teamed up with Upstream, a transactional video-on-demand platform that replaced the theatrical window. “It’s especially hard in the Philippines because piracy is so rampant,” says the Keka director.

Tina Tubongbanua

Founded by Vic del Rosario Jr., Viva Films has been producing films since 1981. “We can at least finally release films meant for the cinemas, which are the big budget ones,” says Tina Tubongbanua, head of Licensing and Acquisitions of Viva Communications, Inc. “We are preparing for the opening and will probably start releasing by November so that we have time to promote our films. For the licensing part, having films released in the cinemas increases the market value of a film. “We just launched our own streaming platform, Vivamax where we release two movies a month.”

Among the new films in the Vivamax library are “Shoot! Shoot!,” “Ang Manananggal na Nahahati ang Puso, Paraluman,” “Kagat ng Dilim: Toktok,” among others. “The reason also why we launched this service is for us to satisfy the audience’s thirst for Filipino movies and other foreign ones too,” says the 54-year-old Viva executive.

Madonna Tarrayo

Madonna G. Tarrayo, president/CEO of UXS Inc., who produces Unitel films, thinks cinema and streaming need to co-exist peacefully and should be complementary. “The pandemic has changed a lot of our habits because now, health is something we value more,” she says.

Unitel, which last produced Whistleblower (2016), is on the lookout for new projects. “We have a few concepts in the pipeline and if the re-opening becomes successful, I think it is going to expand our audience and help recoupment in the process,” says Madonna, a cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication.

To watch or not to watch inside a cinema is the question for all moviegoers. “Having a choice is crucial in how we live our lives,” answers the CineFilipino festival director. “I think even cinema viewing is a democratic choice—the audience wants to be given a choice.”

John Paul Abellera

With the health and safety protocols that need to be followed, it has become more and more expensive for film companies to produce movies. “The closure of cinemas has deprived film producers of their main source of income,” says John Paul E. Abellera, creative manager, ABS-CBN Films.

‘I’ve experienced that firsthand in the Venice and Locarno film festivals. Thousands of people came and I didn’t hear of any cases.’

ABS-CBN Films (Star Cinema and Black Sheep) continues to produce content thru KTX.PH and iWantTFC with titles like “The House Arrest of Us,” “Four Sisters Before the Wedding,” “Love or Money,” and “Hello, Stranger.” “If they continue to support the viewing of movies in cinemas, it will be a big help to all film producers who are struggling right now,” says John Paul.

The Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines (CEAP) welcomes the opening of the cinemas, but with a 30 percent capacity, it would be very difficult for the producers to recoup the investment. Only around 40 percent goes to the producer/distributor minus tax. The film’s market value in streaming services also depends on whether a film has had a theatrical run or not.

What the movie and entertainment industry needs now is to be rescued from the slump. With billions of pesos lost in the closure of cinemas, the government should subsidized and lower the taxes for these local film companies and cinema owners.

As for me, if I hear just one sneeze inside the cinema, I am out of the theater.