The Wheel and Axle

The Path To Obsolescence

by on Feb.12, 2017, under Film & TV, Society

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I came upon a recent article shared by James Deakin regarding the MTRCB seeking to regulate internet movies.

No, they weren’t talking about porn, which the government has also tried to suppress under the pretense of stopping child abuse – not thinking the banned sites are mainstreams that have stringent policies against child porn while those that feature such horrendous practices are in the darkest recesses of the web and difficult to access (never mind that there are tons of lesser-known porn sites still accessible and that Filipinos easily circumvent online bans).

But I digress.

No, this time the MTRCB is targeting legitimate and legal pay-for-play subscription-based streaming channels – unnamed, but presumably Netflix, iFlix, Amazon Prime Video, HOOQ, and the like. Their reasoning?

To sum it up: unfair competition for theater owners.

And my immediate thought was:

Ang dami talagang bobo sa gobyerno at magkalat ang mga gahaman na theater owner.

This is the most stupid line of reasoning because movies that stream through legal channels are released online after their theater run ends, so there is no competition there. Meanwhile, illegal channels (i.e. piracy) are going to be difficult to crack down on, but I believe we already have processes in place for that.

Beautiful but not accessible to the average Pinoy

Deakin’s analogy is correct. It’s the same reasoning used against Uber/Grab. Rather than improve the quality and/or price of service of the traditional industry (taxi, physical cinema), the government – influenced by the corrupt industries – choose to suppress quality, cost-efficient competition.

While I personally prefer to watch movies that I love on the big screen first, there are consumers who’d rather wait and stream legally at lower costs, and it’s understandable. Theater tickets have become expensive for the average Filipino.

Do these MTRCB idiots not understand why a number of people are foregoing the cinema experience? It’s because theater owners have become greedy. Aside from the evidence of the recent MMFF debacle where theaters shut down quality films that were not earning as much as others, cinema viewing has become expensive, especially in Metro Manila. Ticket prices average at around Php250 to Php270 for regular theaters. Prices go up to as high as Php450 to Php500 for specialty cinemas like IMAX, 4D, or theaters that feature reclining leather chairs and unlimited snacks.

Compare that to a Php99 per month subscription on iFlix. Or even the more high-end Netflix, with subscription packages that range from Php300++ for basic features to Php500++ if you want to have full HD experience across multiple devices. All with unlimited access to a vast library of films and TV shows.

Even if you choose the most expensive package of Php500++ per month, you still get to watch as many shows as you like in thirty days as opposed to spending that same amount on 1-2 tickets for one movie in one day. (Let’s set aside first the issue of slow internet services here that can limit streaming capabilities; that is an entirely discussion for another day.)

Hello! Remember me?

The fact is that these streaming channels are no different from those old school video rental shops like Blockbuster or ACA Videos. Except, you know, Year 2017. And I don’t recall those stores being “regulated” outside of the normal business permits required of them.

Now, if the government is sincere in wanting people to patronize cinemas, they need to support the release of more quality films (like the recent MMFF as well as excellent foreign films that don’t even reach us due to perceived lack of blockbuster appeal) and to influence cinemas to reduce ticket prices.

But they wouldn’t do that, I suspect.

Because they don’t really care about viewer and consumer experience. They only care about the greedy theater owners who lobby for these things and who will line government pockets with more money.

Newsflash: if they end up regulating and perhaps even removing these legitimate and legal channels, they will not drive viewers to the cinemas.

They will simply just drive piracy and illegal downloads up.

And the path to their demise will be shorter and quicker.

Cinema owners: a crytal ball to your future if you do not innovate and keep up with the times.

Recently, I was in Makati and saw another Odyssey store closed down, much like many Music One and Tower Records shops. The Astrovision I saw still open was selling DVDs for 100 pesos and Blu-Rays for 700 bucks, and sales do not seem to be winning.

Let that be a warning sign to the theater owners who refuse to move forward with the times. Unless you up your game and find a way to innovate to compete with the digital world, you will become obsolete.

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