Around two years ago, a young friend visiting from the US was very delighted when I told her that I'd take her to the movies so she wouldn't have to tag along with her parents while they were here on vacation. Going to the movies in Manila, after all, was one of my emerging pastimes at that time. I remember asking her if it was okay to watch a Hollywood chick flick, my reason being that she could barely speak Filipino because they migrated when she was still little and that these films are in English. I was a little hesitant at first because sadly, I couldn't think of anything we could do for that afternoon except what I would normally do in my free time.
Her eyes widened when she saw the price of the tickets. It was an afternoon showing and I think it cost around P120 (around $2.50) per person at that time. She told me that even though the movies are shown early in the States, they don't watch all the time because it was so expensive. The cheapest would be at around $4-$6 dollars for a matinee showing and around $10-$12 dollars at prime time plus the popcorn and drinks you'd normally want with your movie. You could easily spend up to $20 for that not-so-great movie. These are the times I tell myself that I feel lucky I live here - in Manila and in the Philippines.
Have a foreign guest that's staying over for a while? Or are you traveling here to see what it's like to live in Manila nowadays? Try watching a movie. I can tell you watching movies has been hyped here for the past year by the marketing group of credit card companies, specifically Citibank card. People will now apply for a Citicard and spend so much just to get that "free" (P100 value only) movie pass for every P1500 charged to their card. HSBC had just followed suit for SM and Ayala Cinemas. I, on the other hand, have been experiencing a shift in the way I watch movies and the way I get hold of those tickets also for the past couple of years.
The Cinemas and Prices
I am not really picky when it comes to the seats and the surround sound effect. I just don't want a head sticking out in my screen view. Sometimes, the cinemas have free or reserved seating depending on the demand for the movie. I usually go to Robinsons Galleria. You also have to go out every movie although I know some who stay for the rerun if they were late for the first part (we used to do this before, maybe if it's free seating you still can but it's better to ask the ticket lady). For most cinemas, they also have their own restrooms per cinema (except for those that have only one or two like Greenhills and Podium). 3D and IMAX have also been introduced in the past few years and tickets may cost around P300-P400 per person. The average price for movie tickets this year 2010 is around P170-P200.
The first showing is at around 10a.m.-11a.m. and the last full show is at around 10p.m.-11p.m., sometimes 12a.m. The schedules are available online, try ClicktheCity.com for a more comprehensive search or google cinemas/movies per mall group like Robinsons, SM, Podium, Powerplant or Ayala Cinemas. If you have newspapers, they have the schedules in the entertainment section. As far as I know, the schedules change every Wednesdays.
How to Get Tickets
The most direct and common way is to go to the theaters a few hours before and buy the tickets. During weekends (Fridays to Sunday afternoon) though, especially for in-demand movies, the tickets for the next show would run out. Others like Robinsons Galleria now offer online booking for some of their reserved seating cinemas.
I usually go to the ones that have free invites or are free and with a more cultural experience, like the CineEuropa marathon I just did. The latter (film festivals), though, are seasonal and come only a few times a year. The listings can sometimes be found if you search within this Boy-Kuripot blog under movie or film. Sometimes, it's free. Sometimes, the fee is only minimal (sometimes around P25-P50).
Premiere night showings are also very common nowadays. You can win free tickets from radio stations, TV programs and sometimes online. During my college days, the different organizations in our school will host a premiere night showing for fundraising. This type of premiere night showing will probably cost higher than ordinary showings but, hey, you get to be the first ones to see the movie before it hits the cinemas. The bonus about these premiere night showings are the sponsor giveaways which you can win if you participate in the games they have before the showing. Sometimes, they have snacks or buffet pika-pikas outside the cinemas too before the show. I haven't attended a red carpet premiere yet though.
We also have a lot of those Citibank receipts so the cost is usually subsidized by our elders who go to the movies with us. It's not that hard to take your girlfriend to a movie now with all these options, right?
I was lucky enough to get these tickets for two different kinds of movies this week.
Local Filipino Movies
What if you could speak and understand Filipino, would you watch a local movie? Some would cringe at the thought even if it is for FREE. I decided to watch anyway when my friend gave me free movie passes to watch "I Do". (Notes: Passes like these have to be turned into a movie ticket so pass by the ticket booth. They are also subject to showing limits.) Typical Filipino movies would have a romantic comedy or romantic drama theme. Love teams are very popular and have a wild fan base who patronize these movies. Guys generally steer clear of these awkward and relatively "baduy" or "corny" situations much like watching a chick-flick movie on a date. The recurring themes for these past few years include Chinese traditions in a Filipino setting (mostly forbidden love), OFW experiences (mostly drama and love overseas) and comedic movies (showcasing the best of Filipino humor). In my experience though, there are some actors and actresses in the Philippines who became famous because of their parent's name. They inherited the charisma but not the acting skills (but being in the business for a long time sometimes helped).
Local Indie Films - Cinemalaya
The annual Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival showcases Filipino talent in filmmaking. Updates can be found here. There are entrance fees and festival passes if you want to watch. Sometimes, they have them over at the UP Film Institute or at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Robinsons Movieworld is currently having a Playback promo for P25 until November 2010 and SM had a P10 rerun movie last year. Promotions like these are feasible but the only thing is they restrict you to go to a particular movie theater mall branch to watch fairly recent Hollywood films.
Free Movies for Senior Citizens
If you have those awesome Philippine senior citizen cards, one of the perks is watching free movies in your city of residence. So far, I heard that Manila-resident senior citizens can watch free movies in Manila malls in selected weekday showings for selected films. Mandaluyong residents can watch movies at any weekday showing in Mandaluyong Malls (Shangri-La, SM Megamall). Just ask the ticket booth ladies to be sure.
International Film Festivals
Details in annual international film festivals can usually be seen in newspapers or in online sites. Old-timers suggest calling or going to the embassies because they usually advertise when the festival has started already. Apart from CineEuropa (hosted by the EU), I heard there are film festivals for these countries in the Philippines - Spain, France, Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea. They are usually shown in Shangri-La Mall (I am not sure though if they post it in their website).
Local Film Festival
The Metro Manila Film Festival happens in Christmas-time every year. There is usually a float parade before the awarding night. During the festival, no foreign films are shown in movie theaters.
Watching & Dining
Care to watch a movie in a makeshift movie screen while dining? I believe you can do this is Mogwai in Cubao Expo and the Black Soup Cafe near UP.
Watch a movie in Manila. It may be common but it can be a different experience. Sometimes, you just have to let yourself go.