The end of movie houses?

Published November 19, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Robert Requintina


Robert Requintina

Did you know that the first film showing in the Philippines happened in Intramuros, Manila in 1900?

According to the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, a British identified only as Walgrah opened the first hall exclusively for movie viewing at No. 60 Calle Santa Rosa in Intramuros.

Two years later, the second movie house was opened by Spanish entrepreneur, Samuel Rebarber, who called his building, Gran Cinematografo Parisien, located at No. 80, Calle Crespo, Quiapo.

Then in 1903, the first Filipino-owned movie theater, the Cinematograpo Rizal, was established by Jose Jimenez, a stage backdrop painter. It was located on Azcarraga street, in front of Tutuban Train Station. With a continuous supply of cheap films, movie houses mushroomed.

“Rose of the Philippines” is the first story film made in the Philippines in 1909 by the IMP Company – Carl Laemmele’s Independent Moving Picture Company.

Some historians thought “Rose of the Philippines” was a slide show.

However, in Jan. 1910, the IMP released a 760-foot film (about eight minutes in screening) in the US to prove it’s really a movie.

When it debuted in Manila in 1911, “Rose of the Philippines” was advertised in a major daily as “among the first movies produced locally – a dramatic story from the days of the empire.”

Movie houses have come a long way in the Philippines. From simple to state-of-the-art, cinema houses have become a favorite pastime for Filipinos.

Yet the pandemic changed the entertainment industry as it almost lost movies houses for good. Slowly, movie houses are reopening. People are going back to movie houses because, apparently, they are tired of doing things virtually.

Now that the cinemas in the Philippines have reopened, here’s what to expect: Cinemas will be allowed to resume operations at 30 percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals; moviegoers should wear their face masks all the time; eating inside the cinema is not allowed, and practice social distancing (one seat apart).

There’s something magical about cinema houses. No matter how great your home theater is, you can’t replicate the magic and excitement of going to a movie theater.

For now, the entertainment industry needs to find ways to persuade the public to go back to cinema houses, like introducing new titles, and comfort to moviegoers.

But the bigger question here: Can movie houses survive?

Streaming services have boomed. It continues to wrestle for audience share and entertainment cash. It is revolutionizing the way people watch films. In a world where everything is on-demand, business is changing. It’s on. Changes in movie viewing preferences have accelerated due to the challenges brought about by COVID-19. We had seen more movies and remembered them better via streaming.

Still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, the showbiz industry continues to struggle. It is the most visibly impacted business in all entertainment. Some distributors even declare bankruptcy and go out of business. The industry sees 2021 as a transitory year, with a new sense of normalcy in 2022.

One thing is sure: The pandemic taught us to transform and do a lot of creative thinking. It showed us a different way to watch movies.

(Robert R. Requintina is the Entertainment Editor of Manila Bulletin)