The Force awakens MMFF 2015
Edgar O. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - 2015 is a critical year for the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

With the impressive financial success of upping ticket sales five years in a row under the lead of resigned Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino, lawyer Emerson Carlos, who is now officially appointed as replacement, has a big challenge to deal with.

As head of the MMFF executive committee in charge of running the annual filmfest, he is expected to deliver the target objective of exceeding last year’s P1.014B gross receipts.

The inclusion by default of J.J. Abram’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a major factor to consider. It will certainly pull patronage from what should have been a captive market.

But chair Carlos has a strong winning edge. This year’s line-up is relatively free of so-called “dark horses.” For the first time in its 40-year history, it has eight strong entries but a formidable competitor — The Force Awakens.

That’s eight versus one: My Bebe Love, Walang Forever, Haunted Mansion, All You Need Is Pag-ibig, Beauty And the Bestie, Nilalang, Buy Now, Die Later and Honor Thy Father in all 300-plus 2D cinemas nationwide as against The Force Awakens in eight IMAX theaters.

The seventh franchise of the Star Wars saga opens globally on Dec. 17 and closes on Dec. 24 in the Philippines as required by law. The MMFF opens on Dec. 25. Only new Filipino film productions are allowed to screen during its two-week run. Regular screenings resume after it ends on Jan. 7 such as The Force Awakens on Jan. 8.

With one major exemption. The Force Awakens continues screening in 3D and IMAX theaters as allowed by the MMFF rules. For about double the regular price of an MMFF ticket, it will continue to screen in IMAX Aura Premier, Cebu, Clark, Lanang Premier, Mall of Asia, Megamall, North EDSA and Southmall.

And The Force Awakens stokes everyone. The screening is much-anticipated as its last installment, George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, screened a decade ago, in 2005. And SM Malls will be one big push to promote the film as its Christmas décor will be The Force Awakens-themed.

This is not the start-up of a mega popular Hollywood film opening at pre-Christmas in the country that will run through MMFF. In 2013, when the final installment of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened mid-December, it stopped screening at regular cinemas during MMFF but continued at IMAX theaters.

A 20m x 33m, eight-storey high and 120-feet wide screen several times larger than the standard film screen magnifies the extraordinary viewing experience. The expertly angled seats allow unobstructed view wherever the seat is located.

Plus, its surround sound is so powerful it makes the viewing alive. That’s a larger-than-life feeling. The viewer will be extremely close to experience effects-heavy scenes such as a lightsaber duel in an aircraft carrier.

The IMAX exemption is understandable. As an international franchise, only films formatted in IMAX can be played in the theater. IMAX’s digital formatting takes place abroad. Usually, local films do not have content available for IMAX. 

It is also a contractual responsibility. With a third party that IMAX is accountable to, adds to the reason it features international films during MMFF. Other 3D theaters might still be able to feature local films since they are also 2D-capable, the format of MMFF entries.

But this arrangement has positive implications for Philippine cinema. This will put MMFF in an acid test with the partial lifting of its protectionist shield versus foreign films.

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