Lights! Camera! Action! CHOICE!

There are positive signs for the future of Myanmar’s cinema industry.

It was recently reported that Myanmar-made movies are to screen simultaneously starting from January 1. This positive development for the movie industry is said to have followed prolonged discussions between film producers and cinema owners. 

This week I will discuss whether the simultaneous screening of different Myanmar movies will benefit cinema-goers and I will also explore if it will help to raise the standard of Myanmar movies.

First of all, cinemagoers will have a choice of Myanmar-made movies to watch. At present, only one new Myanmar movie screens at a time.

Starting from January 1, at least two Myanmar movies will screen simultaneously. About 20 Myanmar movies are released each year but that could double in the future and the quality of the productions is expected to increase. That’s another improvement movie goers would welcome.

There will also be benefits for movie producers. Under the current arrangement they have to wait for their productions to screen at cinemas because only one new Myanmar movie is permitted to screen at a time. This means producers have to wait up to two years before their productions screen. The delay has been bad for the industry because it has meant that producers have had to wait up to two years to get a return on the money invested in producing a movie. 

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The total cost of producing a movie in Myanmar is between about K120 million and K200 million (about US$96,000 to $160,000). Movies featuring popular stars or special effects can cost between K300 million and K400 million because they are sent abroad to be edited. Director Waing’s recent movies “Lett Pan” and “Nin Se Yin” are in this category. A considerable amount was invested in making them and having to wait a long time before there’s any return is not economically viable. Producers also suffer when inflation is high. The simultaneous release and screening of more than one Myanmar movie at a time will help to ease losses due to inflation.

Another problem with the current system is that newly-made movies can become outdated, despite efforts to plan ahead. This is what happened to director Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin’s satirical movie called “Our Election”. It was completed in June 2014. Nyi Nyi Tun Lwin had wanted it to screen this year but because of its position in the queue it was not due to screen until 2016. The effort that went into making this film has been wasted. This is why producers stay clear of movies about current affairs and focus on love stories or comedies that are not at risk of becoming outdated. This is one of the reasons why the standard of Myanmar movies is inferior.

There was a time decades ago when Myanmar movies were screened simultaneously. The movie industry was busier then and a reason for that was the number of cinemas throughout the nation. After the military seized power in 1988, the Ministry of Information was permitted to sell many cinemas. They were sold on condition that the redevelopment of the site would include a cinema, but this was widely ignored. The result is that there are far fewer cinemas in Myanmar than a few decades ago.

Most cinemas are owned by the Mingala Company Group, with whom producers have been negotiating to arrange the simultaneous screening of movies after January 1. This agreement is good for the development of the movie industry in Myanmar. There’s also the possibility that an improvement in the quality of the movie sector will attract foreign investment.


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