Clipped wings prevent Philippine cinema from soaring

Some forty years ago, the Philippine film industry is said to have reached its golden era. Filipinos are more than willing to go to the cinemas and religiously watch locally produced films. They scream their lungs out whenever their idols’ faces are flashed on the silver screen. These idols are not Hollywood stars. They are homegrown talents as much as their movies are. Fans seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for movies, Filipino movies that is. Indeed, the Philippine film industry took to the skies during these years and for a few more years that followed.

Surprisingly, the number of theater houses during those days are relatively few. There are a number of reasons why the film industry continues to plunge. Two years ago, 58 Filipino competed with 2087 foreign films mostly from Hollywood. This only means that there aren’t enough Filipino movies to choose from. In fact, UD$7 million out of the US$76 million come from a two-week run of exclusive Filipino films during the Metro Manila Film Festival. If a mere two-weeks can sell 47 million tickets, about 129,000 people per day, imagine what a longer run would do for the recuperation of the Philippine movie industry.

“We must not forget the role of the Philippine film industry as a potential job generator, potential culture enhancer, potential nation builder and potential platform for industrial development. The nation is neglecting an almost sure winner,” Dr. Rene Ofreneo, executive director of Fair Trade Alliance said.

Stakeholders have come together to act on the continued decline of the Philippine Film Industry. Since the 1st quarter of this year, various stakeholders of the Philippine Film Industry i.e. Film Academy of the Philippines, Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Pelikulang Pilipino and Independent Filmmakers Cooperative who sought the assistance of the Fair Trade Alliance, a broad multisectoral coalition of formal and informal labor, industry, agriculture, NGOs and youth pushing for trade and economic reforms, have been meeting to discuss the state of the film industry.

The continued decline of the Philippine film industry becomes more evident when the number of movies produced annually is scrutinized. Before 1996, the industry, on the average, produces 164 – 250 movies a year. However, a drop in production resulted when the government levied a 10% tax value-added tax on gross receipts. This is in addition to the already burdensome 23% municipal amusement tax. From then on, the production of Filipino movies continued to decline. From 200-2003 only 80 films were produced. It further declined the following year when only 53 movies were produced.

  • 23% municipal amusement tax
  • 77% net of municipal amusement tax, of which:

— 35-50% comprises theater share

  • 50-65% comprises producer’s share, of which 12% again goes to government as Value-Added Tax

These numbers are clear indications that heavy taxation is one of the obstacles that the Philippine film industry faces.

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