“I loved Heneral Luna.”
Kislay Chandra, MovieClub’s Operations and IT Manager, had a lot to say about 2015’s smash historical film hit. “If you look at mainstream cinema, you don’t find a lot of films that glorify Philippine history. It was a wonderful way to learn about history. It was a fun way to learn about Heneral Luna,” he says.
MovieClub’s team is filled with people like Chandra—passionate people who wax romantic on the current state of Philippine cinema. In a sense, MovieClub is a movie club on its own, even without its growing app.
MovieClub’s mission is simple: bring original Filipino content to the greater masses. Despite the rise of online streaming services, Filipino cinema still hasn’t taken the leap towards mass digitalization. According to MovieClub COO Geoffrey Chen, the local film industry in the country still suffers from “dinosaur-ish” methods of monetization.
Currently, the industry’s main method of making money is either through theater sales or cable screening. With more and more people realizing the value of online streaming, Philippines cinema will eventually be left in the dust if it doesn’t adapt to emerging trends.
Because of this, a lot of local content creators, particularly in the indie scene, are left without a platform to spread their content and reach millions of viewers. This is where MovieClub’s mission becomes two-fold; besides providing accessibility to local content, the startup also wants to uplift the local independent scene.
Pinoy movies on the go
First, what is MovieClub? It’s the country’s first free streaming service dedicated to Filipino content. Unlike other streaming services like Netflix, iflix, and HOOQ, MovieClub is 100 percent free, legal, and Pinoy-made. Its growing library of almost 600 titles contains mostly Filipino movies both old and new, with only a smattering of dubbed foreign content.
Watching movies on the app doesn’t incur any additional fees, besides any data costs while streaming. MovieClub itself is free. It aims to democratize Filipino content viewing for those who are budget-conscious or always on-the-go. To offset data costs, the service has compressed its library to an average of only 100MB per file. (Resolutions for these files max out at 480p.) Coupled with multiple prepaid promos available in the market today, audiences can already watch several movies for only a fraction of a movie ticket’s price. Further, MovieClub’s data usage is adaptive. This can be adjusted manually or automatically depending on signal coverage.
For better reach, MovieClub has partnered with several smartphone manufacturers like Cherry Mobile to have their app included in their phone’s out-of-the-box package. This strategy targets new smartphone adopters who may not have either the time or expertise to install apps on their own. This way, MovieClub is readily available for its target market.
Currently, the app is only available on Android since most of their market uses Android phones. However, they do plan to launch an iOS version in the future.
As mentioned above, film accessibility is only one part of MovieClub’s plan for the industry. Independent films, nay, good Filipino films are too few and far between. The Philippine film industry at large is still too obsessed with Hollywood blockbusters and slapstick, product placement extravaganzas to care about film quality.
Indie movies don’t get the time of day that they deserve. The release of a highly-anticipated indie film like Bliss and Respeto will inevitably lead to trending petitions to extend their runs in cinemas. They are always allotted only one or two weeks of runtime.
MovieClub wants to take independent films away from that system by offering them a platform for their content. The service isn’t exclusive to moneymakers like Praybeyt Benjamin. All content creators are welcome to add their content to MovieClub’s growing library which remains open for simple webisodes and pilots.
Just recently, MovieClub hosted a bloggers’ viewing party for last year’s MMFF smash hit Saving Sally. The service remains one of the film’s staunch promoters. Likewise, they want to promote more content on their app. They are even willing to shoulder some expenses and helping creators out with production if needed.
Still relatively young, MovieClub still has some ways to go before it reaches its goal of delivering quality content to the masses. Their journey isn’t over. Eventually, the startup plans to launch more features and complementary services for the film industry.
At the time of this writing, MovieClub is planning to add app features like reviews, points and rewards, and collaborative viewing parties. Ultimately, MovieClub wants to gamify the experience of watching a movie.
Outside of their app, the startup wants to collaborate more deeply with content creators including those in the music industry. They also look to partner with telcos for a more specialized promo tailored to them.
MovieClub is available on the Google Play Store.