Coming soon: the 49th Metro Manila Film Festival vs livestreaming

Coming soon: the 49th Metro Manila Film Festival vs livestreaming

At the rate things are going, with most local movies screened in theaters ending up in the doldrums, what fate awaits the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF)?

Ten official entries will be shown in cinemas all over the country starting on Dec. 25 until Jan. 7, and elsewhere like Los Angeles, California, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 8. The Manila International Film Festival was launched in LA last month.

But can Filipino filmgoers in the Philippines be expected to go back to theaters in droves? Will most of them leave, albeit temporarily, the comfort zone provided by the livestreaming platform, to which they got accustomed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic up to the easing of the health emergency?

Or will they be indifferent to the come-on of in-person movie-watching? Will they want to re-experience the excitement in the darkness of the theater, despite the exorbitant prices of box-office tickets? (Mall cinemas charge at least P300 per film.)

Or will the colonial mentality prevail? Will Filipinos queue for Hollywood outings such as Marvel productions and other foreign starrers, and disdain local movies? Will the old skepticism over the quality of local movies win out?

Main target

At any rate, the movers and shakers of the local film industry have always banked on the idea that the main target of the MMFF is the children. They argue that December, specifically the Christmas season, is for children; this is why the MMFF, now on its 49th year, traditionally begins on Christmas Day and goes on past New Year’s Day.

To be sure, the MMFF has other target markets, such as cineastes, professionals, fans, moms, etc.

It is thus logical and understandable that the festival’s selection committee has chosen entries deemed child-friendly, like comedies and fantasies. But this time, there’s no Vic Sotto, no Vice Ganda—the perennial box-office drawers in the past (although once upon a time, Vice’s “Partners in Crime” was dislodged at the tills by a dark horse, “Deleter,” a techno thriller directed by Mikhail Red and starring Nadine Lustre).

It is possible that little boys and girls would dig as well such genre films as horror, or digital-games-inspired plots and presentations. And children go to the movies with their parents and other loved ones—therefore, additional income for the film producers is to be expected.

Festival lineup

Here’s the lineup of the MMFF entries. Still on the economic side, can it surpass the P500 million in earnings targeted last year by the festival organizer and overseer, the Metro Manila Development Authority?

There are 10 films in all. It used to be that the entries numbered only eight, but it seems that the selection committee headed by producer Jesse Ejercito found a couple more submissions worthy of exhibition at the festival.

The MMFF, with its glitz and glam, endeavors to blend with business and the arts. Can its 2023 entries entice the crowds?

  • JG Productions’ “When I Met You in Tokyo,” a drama starring Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, with the special participation of Tirso Cruz III, among others. Directed by Conrado Rado and Rommel Penesa.
  • Jesuit Communications’ “Gomburza,” a historical drama featuring Enchong Dee. Directed by Pepe Diokno.
  • Viva Films’ “Penduko,” a fantasy top-billing Matteo Guidicelli and Cristine Reyes. Directed by Jason Paul Laxamana.
  • Mentorque Productions’ “Mallari,” a historical thriller showcasing Piolo Pascual.
  • BMC Films’ “Broken Hearts Trip,” a romcom presenting TJ Marquez and Christian Bables, among others. Directed by Lemuel Lorca.
“Becky and Badette”
  • The IdeaFirst Company’s “Becky and Badette,” a comedy showing off the comic chops of Eugene Domingo and Pokwang. Directed by Jun Lana Robles.
“Family Of Two”
  • Cineko Productions’ “Family of 2,” a family drama with Sharon Cuneta sharing the screen with Alden Richards. Directed by Nuel Naval.
  • GMA Films’ “Firefly,” an allegory with an all-star cast. Directed by Zig Dulay.
  • Quantum Films’ “(K)Ampon,” a genre film highlighting the acting talents of Derek Dee and Beauty Gonzales.
  • ABS-CBN Film Productions’ “Rewind,” a romcom, featuring reel- and real-life couple Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes. Directed by King Palisoc.


In patronizing these films, I am trying to think of what I would want to label myself.

A consumer? Yet show business, much more than the general audience, is not attuned to using the term in such an enterprise as movie production. In the larger scale of tinsel town, “consumer” would be a misnomer.

A moviegoer is more like it, and better for marketing and audience rapport.

It is because a film is not usually seen as a product in the economic context but as a plain movie production—a diversion, a piece of entertainment representing and redefining illusion in the layman’s eyes.

Yes, I will be a moviegoer masquerading as a consumer to buy tickets to determine the usefulness or uselessness of the MMFF.

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