Philippine film industry in decline

The number of films produced in the Philippine movie industry has halved over the past decade in the face of piracy and Hollywood competition, a government study released Wednesday showed.

Only the rise of independent film-makers has saved the industry from declining further, with "indie" movies now accounting for more than half the total made in the Philippines, the study said.

"There are many factors causing the fall. There is piracy and competition from foreign movies. Local movies are also not given as much support from the public," said government statistical coordination officer Gerald Clarino.

The report by Clarino and other officers of the National Statistical Coordination Board found that from 1960 to 1999, the Philippines produced an average of about 140 movies each year.

This gave local films at least 20 percent of the domestic market, the report said. At the time, the industry boasted of being one of the most prolific movie producers in the world after Hollywood and India's "Bollywood".

But from 2000 to 2009, local film output fell to an average of 73 annually with only 11 percent of the market, the report said. Last year 78 local films were made.

Clarino said the the top-grossing movies in the Philippines were typically US-made films with multi-million-dollar budgets that the local movie industry could not afford.

He said the most popular local movies were usually light, romantic comedies that did not require big budgets.

Clarino also cited copyright piracy as a problem, with bootleg DVD copies of Philippine movies sold in Manila's streets sometimes on the same day the films opened in cinemas.

Highlighting the extent of the problem, a top aide of President Benigno Aquino was last month caught buying bootleg DVDs in Manila, but escaped any major punishment.

Movie industry leaders have also previously blamed high taxes on tickets and a general lack of government support for their sector's plight.

Amid the overall decline, "indie" film-makers have emerged from virtually nowhere a decade ago to produce 45 films in 2010 and 44 in 2011, the report said.

Filipino "indie" directors, such as Brillante Mendoza, Pepe Diokno and Jim Libiran, have won awards at prestigious foreign film festivals.

But their films, which often tackle serious social problems in the corruption-plagued and impoverished Philippines, have rarely achieved box office success at home.

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