The Political Economy of Film Distribution in the Philippines

By: Mark Lester Chico  

This paper provides readers a glimpse of how film entries to the Philippines’ arguably most important and biggest film festival, The Metro Manila Film Festival, are distributed. With key informants as primary respondents, this paper reveals how the business of film distribution is controlled by film oligarchs who plot the destiny of films distributed and exhibited in the country. Film distribution in the Philippines is highly politically controlled and profit driven. Film distributors play a crucial role in making sure that their films are preferred not only by exhibitors but more importantly the audience. Film, being the distributors’ commodity, is produced and distributed with profit as the end in mind. The film distribution (as well as production and exhibition) industry is definitely capitalist-driven. These capitalists, in the face of producer-distributors and exhibitors, have an undeniably strong control of the market from when films would be played to whom they would compete with, and much more. They have structured themselves so well through various organizations, such as the National Cinema Association of the Philippines, in order to keep the power within themselves as industry players. They have mastered, or perhaps shaped, a market that craves movies whose content is mainly for entertainment. How can small or starting producers and distributors penetrate the existing market with their “alternative films?” How will they play the game, the rules of which were crafted by those who have stayed in the industry longer? What are the hopes of changing this film landscape?

Political Economy, Film
Media Business
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mark Lester Chico

-, -, University of the Philippines, Philippines
-, Philippines