Without the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), the local movie industry would have been in a far worse situation.
This is the sentiment of former producer Atty. Espiridion Laxa, one of the pillars of the Philippine movie industry, a sentiment which is also being categorically echoed by many showbiz denizens.
This is by no means empty rhetoric. Laxa has the telling figures:
In 2000, there were about 164 local movies produced. Last year, the number dwindled to half, at 82 movies made and shown.
"This year, we will be lucky if we finish 55 films, that is already including the entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival," Laxa explains.
Of these movies, only a handful made money. Fewer still were those who were able to recoup their investments or broke even.
The MMFF thus was the only bright spot in the movie making industry. In 2002, its gross receipts reached R315 million while last year it showed its strongest performance at the box office tills with R350 million in gross receipts. Hopes are high that this year, with a powerhouse line-up of movies and stellar attractions, the MMFF will rake in more.
"Aside from the returns, the Filmfest never fails to arouse the interest of the people in Filipino movies. It is the time of the year when they have conditioned their minds that they are going to watch the entries because here are the best of the best in the industry," notes Laxa.
After 29 years and to date, the MMFF continues to be the most successful film festival in the country.
It serves as a launch pad not only for box office hits but also for the most beautiful films ever made in the country. It was the venue to exhibit great Filipino films such as "Himala," "Insiang," "Kisapmata," "Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon," "Burlesk Queen," "Atsay," and more recently "Rizal," "Crying Ladies," and the "Mano Po" series.
The MMFF gathers the most respected directors together with the highest stars in showbizlandia and showcases various film genres on one occasion,
making it a much awaited event for people of all ages.
Indeed, it seems that the MMFF is the definitive event in the Philippine movies, always managing to bring the much-needed luster to the industry, no matter how bad it has been throughout the year.
"You know why, because producers make it a point to make a movie for the filmfest, or at least aim for a filmfest slot. Aside from the fact that the movie will earn, there are other reasons why a slot in the filmfest is much coveted," explains Laxa.
For one, the timing is perfect. The long Christmas break is the best playdate of the year, according to Laxa. Children are on a school break so they can watch the children-oriented movies (like this years "Enteng Kabisote" and "Lastikman"). People have extra money to spare to go and see a movie. Everyone is in a festive mood.
"Another reason is that during the MMFF, only Filipino films are being shown. Walang kalaban na foreign movies," adds Laxa.
The veteran movie producer notes that about 300 foreign films are being shown in the Philippines on the average. If foreign blockbuster titles are made to go against a local film, there is no fighting chance for the lowly Filipino movie. The MMFF is thus the only time of the year that they have the movie houses all to themselves so that the potential to earn is bigger.
The MMFF has also built a reputation for churning out the best crafted movies that it already has prestige attached to its name. Already an institution, the MMFF brings prestige to any movie it has chosen for its roster.
"There is a perception that if you become a part of the MMFF, sikat ka as a producer. …