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Films to open Fridays, get guaranteed 7-day run

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AFTER months of consultations with industry stakeholders and the general public, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has released a memorandum circular which will move the opening days for local and foreign films from Wednesday to Friday and ensures a minimum seven-day run for every film booked in theaters starting July.

“This [Memorandum Circular] is the culmination of FDCP’s efforts to strengthen our industry practices and level the playing field for all our stakeholders — from film producers, to distributors, to our exhibitors, and even the audience — through a transparent and fair set of guidelines that addresses the gaps that have long plagued our industry when it comes to screening films in commercial theaters,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Mary Liza B. Dino, in a statement dated June 25.

The first meetings with industry stakeholders were held in March while public consultations were held in April.

The circular’s policies and guidelines are set to take effect 15 days after June 25.

The Memorandum Circular No. 2019-01 which outlines Policies and Guidelines on the Theatrical Release of Films in Philippine Cinemas was said to have been crafted with the support of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Management Bureau, and the Office of the Presidential Legal Counsel and Spokesperson.

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The memorandum, aside from moving film openings to Fridays and ensuring a minimum seven-day run, also said that “theater assignments will be guaranteed for the first three days to avoid movies from getting pulled out of cinemas,” and that during the first three days (Friday to Sunday), “full screens” must be assigned to the booked film which disallows “screen-splitting” or booking and exhibiting two films for a single theater screen.

The memorandum is meant to remove the “first-day, last-day” effect where films that don’t do well on the first day are immediately pulled out of theaters. By having movies open on Fridays instead of Wednesdays this will give smaller films a chance to find their audiences faster since more people watch movies on weekends than on weekdays.

The policy will apply with the exception of “extreme cases” such as when there are “zero to less than the expected turnout of the audience during the screening,” said the memorandum.

The memorandum also stated that an “equitable ratio between Filipino films and foreign films should also be observed in regular playdates to give local films a higher chance of being seen by the audience, except in cases where a national film festival, such as Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) and Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).”

In an interview in March, Ms. Dino told BusinessWorld that the current ratio is 70% foreign films to 30% local films.

The memorandum also states that films released in theaters may not be shown on other screening platforms for 150 days (a “holdback period”) in order to “maximize the movies’ revenue opportunity in local cinemas.”

The FDCP also recommended that the national average movie ticket prices be at P200 for students aged 18 years and below in Metro Manila and a maximum of P150 in provinces every Wednesday “to encourage watching local films at the cinemas among the youth.”

“We have but one Philippine film industry. Let’s all give our share to ensure that the next hundred years of Philippine cinema will be meaningful and relevant, and one that truly empowers all sectors for growth and sustainability,” Ms. Dino said in a Facebook post on June 25. — Z.B. Chua

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