Citing sub judice rule, CEAP mum about complaint vs FDCP
Business as usual.
This was the message that members of the Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines (CEAP) wanted to relay when they made their presence felt on Thursday afternoon at the press conference that announced the creation of the Metro Manila Summer Film Festival (MMSFF) slated for 2020.
This controversial group of cinema owners and operators did not only release a statement declaring its support of the initiative of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in creating the MMSFF, its members were also present at the media gathering held at the MMDA main office on that day.
“There’s no issue. None of the stakeholders has any issue. In fact, we still coordinate with each other in relation to the new films that are about to be released,” insisted Annie Naval, CEAP chair.
The CEAP recently filed a complaint against the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in relation to a memorandum on film-screening schedules that the latter hoped to implement, saying it was “invalid” and “unconstitutional.”
The CEAP questioned the validity of Memorandum Circular No. 2019-01 on the “Policies and Guidelines on the Theatrical Release of Films on Philippine Cinemas,” which included the switch in the opening of both local and foreign films from Wednesday to Friday, as well as a cinema-assignment guarantee for the first three screening days to prevent movie pullout.
“We still coordinate with them (stakeholders) about their films’ release schedules, regardless of whether they produced the films or they are distributing them. It’s really them who dictate when they want their films shown,” Naval told the Inquirer. “It’s business as usual. In fact, we’re expecting new local films to be screened. Excited na ang mga sinehan!”
According to the FDCP, the memorandum was crafted to draw moviegoers to the cinemas, specifically during the weekends, when more people are available to watch.
In an interview days prior to the news of CEAP’s filing a court complaint had been reported online, FDCP chair Liza Diño told the Inquirer that some producers like Star Cinema, which will be releasing “Hello, Love, Goodbye” on a Wednesday (July 31), wrote a letter informing stakeholders of its promotional plan.
“We can’t insist on making them open on a Friday and ruin their promo schedule,” Diño said. “The goal of the memo is to be able to give an opportunity for local film producers who want to open on a Friday. It’s a policy that aims to uplift, not to limit businesses.”
The CEAP, however, refused to discuss the complaint, which it filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, stressing that “the judge advised against it … We can’t talk because it’s already in court,” said CEAP vice chair Rolando Duenas, citing the court’s sub judice rule.
The Inquirer had sought their reaction shortly after the memorandum was released, but failed to get a response.
In a statement released on July 19, the FDCP said it was refraining from commenting on the issue until it receives the official summons from the court.
Meanwhile, the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI) said it was “deeply saddened and disturbed by the turn of events.” It also pleaded with the CEAP to “give the memorandum a chance.”
The filmmakers also “enjoin colleagues in the film industry to support the FDCP memo and make their voices be heard in this crucial moment.”
On Thursday, when asked to explain the significance of the CEAP’s decision to release a statement and its attendance at the media gathering, Naval said: “The MMDA has a mandate to organize the MMFF every year so we really need to do it, unlike this MMFF summer edition which, for now, is simply an MMDA project. It has yet to be institutionalized, but we are already showing our support—the same support we give for the MMFF at Christmastime, where 100 percent of our cinemas are dedicated to the screening of local movies, or the chosen film fest entries … We will always be supportive of this initiative, as long as it supports the movie industry.”
In past MMFF editions, cinema operators have been reported to pullout festival entries that are doing poorly at the box office, despite the MMFF ruling that no festival finalist will be removed from the cinemas during the first-week run of the 14-day film fest.
Duenas, however, pointed out that it has always been what is called the Sales and Playdate committee, a subcommittee of the MMFF, that’s tasked to oversee coordination between producers/distributors and theaters.
“Everything goes through this committee,” he stressed, adding that it was good that Romando “Don” Artes, coexecutive chair of the MMFF’s executive committee (execom), also pointed this out during the press conference’s Q&A. “Only what the committee approves gets implemented. Direct negotiations between operators and producers/distributors are not allowed.”
The committee is currently headed by film producer Jesse Ejercito, said MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer.