The 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) got off to a slow start, as moviegoers cited the lack of family-friendly flicks from this year’s lineup, and a shift in viewing habits among Pinoys amid the pandemic.
While the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has not yet released the official box office results, news reports and social media show that the usual crowded theatres in the malls looked empty on the first day, Dec. 25.
The 47th edition of the annual MMFF marks the return to cinemas after its previous edition ran online due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
No crowds or queues were reported this year compared to the festival's pre-pandemic runs, when malls used to be packed with moviegoers on Christmas day.
In an interview with PEP, director Joey Reyes cited a number of reasons for the low turnout, including budget constraints, fears of watching movies in enclosed theaters, and competition from the variety of offerings on streaming services like Netflix, Viu, Vivamax, Upstream, KTX, and more.
On his Facebook page, Veteran showbiz columnist Ed de Leon wrote, “Lagapak ang MMFF ngayong araw ng Pasko. Hinahanap ng mga tao ang mga pelikulang pambata, at yung sikat na mga artista.
“Naulit na naman ang karanasan noong 2016 na ang kasali ay puro mga pelikulang indie, at wala halos promo. May mga cancelled screening pa dahil walang taong pumasok.”
The eight films in the MMFF 2021 lineup includes two John Arcilla starrers, and Kun Maupay Man It Panahon (Whether the Weather is Fine), which has won awards in international festivals, are not considered by most as child-friendly viewing.
The eight films include:
- A Hard Day, directed by Lawrence Fajardo and starring Dingdong Dantes and John Arcilla
- Big Night, directed by Jun Robles Lana and starring Christian Bables, John Arcilla, Eugene Domingo, and Martin del Rosario
- Love at First Stream, directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina and starring Daniela Stranner, Anthony Jennings, Kaori Oinuma, and Jeremiah Lisbo
- Kun Maupay Man It Panahon (Whether the Weather is Fine), directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad and starring Daniel Padilla and Charo Santos
- Nelia, directed by Lester Dimaranan and starring Raymond Bagatsing and Winwyn Marquez
- Huwag Kang Lalabas, directed by Adolf Alix Jr and starring Kim Chiu, Joaquin Domagoso, Beauty Gonzalez, Aiko Melendez, and Jameson Blake
- The ExorSis, directed by Fifth Solomon, starring Toni Gonzaga and Alex Gonzaga
- Huling Araw sa Tag-Ulan, directed by Louie Ignacio and starring Ken Chan and Rita Daniela
The festival committee is encouraging the public to support the local movie industry this year by watching the selected films in cinemas.
However, the pandemic, ensuing health protocols and current events have really dampened the normally festive moviegoing experience for many Pinoys.
Movie fans have cited that the rainy weather during Christmas Day’s opening and restrictions on eating inside the theaters, having to sit apart due to social distancing requirements, as factors that kept them away from cinemas.
Only around 300 movie theaters nationwide are screening films, down from the usual 900, as many cinemas were left unused for the past two years due to the pandemic-related closures. Theaters are only allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity with only those vaccinated allowed inside.
Aside from the pandemic restrictions, the low turnout is also being attributed to Typhoon Odette (International name: Rai), which devastated major areas in the Visayas and Mindanao areas shortly before Christmas, many of which continue to grapple with power disruptions.
MMFF 2021 runs from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7, 2022.