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At 25, Cinema One is still Pinoys’ ‘laging kasama’

At 25, Cinema One is still Pinoys’ ‘laging kasama’At 25, Cinema One is still Pinoys’ ‘laging kasama’CINEMA One (C1), one of the first locally produced cable channels in the Philippines, celebrates 25 years of championing Philippine cinema this 2019.

It marked the milestone with a silver anniversary theme song, “Laging Kasama” performed by Daniel Padilla, and by premiering the highest grossing Filipino film of all time, “The Hows Of Us” starring Padilla and love team partner Kathryn Bernardo, on C1.

Showcase for Filipino films

Channel head Ronald Arguelles says C1 was born to provide a 24-hour channel showcasing Filipino films.

C1 was formerly known as Sky One, one of the first cable channels developed for SKYcable by its programming division under Leng Raymundo in 1994. The aim was to provide a local counterpoint to SKYcable’s channel lineup that included CNN, HBO and ESPN.

“SKYcable did not have a lot of locally produced channels at the time because we were just starting, the cable business was in its infancy,” recalls Arguelles.

Arguelles was a member of the original SKYcable programming team before taking the reins at C1. A year later, the programming group was rebranded as an ABS-CBN subsidiary called Creative Programs Inc. (CPI). In addition to C1, the CPI portfolio includes Metro. style, launched in 1999 as Lifestyle Network; MYX, founded in 2000; and newest channel Jeepney TV founded in 2012.

Meanwhile, Sky One aired stock market reports and Senate updates in the morning before switching over to local movies for the rest of the day.

Looking over the ratings of Sky One, the team noticed the strong performance of the movie block—people were watching—and decided to give local flicks their own “home.”

Sky One became Pinoy Blockbuster Channel in 1998, airing mostly movies from Regal Films—the studio behind the era’s biggest hits—and independent productions.

In 2001, the channel was ready for another transformation—and a new name courtesy of then ABS-CBN president Freddie M. Garcia, who christened it “Cinema One.”

With the refresh came an expanded repertoire—C1 was now also producing magazine shows that supported and enhanced the movie-focused programming, Arguelles notes.

By then, Star Cinema was churning out as many as 14 movies a year, giving C1 a deep well from which it could draw Filipino films for airing on TV. ABS-CBN’s film and television production outfit was C1’s contemporary, having been established in 1994.

Its non-film offerings, on the other hand, include the longrunning “Cinemanews” hosted by Bianca Gonzalez and “Inside the Cinema” with Boy Abunda. It also had shows hosted by Kapamilya artists such as “Persona,” “Cover Story,” “Review Night,” “My Space,” “VIP Pass” and “The Celebrity Hit List.”

Its core programming of classic and contemporary Filipino films was such a hit that C1 has been the Philippines’ no. 1 cable channel for several years running, says Arguelles.

Screenwriter Ricky Lee, in a recent “Inside the Cinema” interview, called C1 the “go-to channel if you want to watch local films.”

As someone who lives and breathes movies, Arguelles has this advice for film buffs and aspiring cineasts: “Never forget to watch classics (‘Anak Dalita,’ ‘Insiang,’ ‘Himala,’ ‘Moral,’ Star Cinema’s ‘Anak’) before watching the new Philippine cinema (‘That Thing Called Tadhana,’ Jerrold Tarog’s ‘Confessional,’ Chito Roño’s ‘Signal Rock, Black Sheep’s ‘Exes Baggage,’ new musical forms in films like ‘Changing Partners’ and genre films like the ones made by Erik Matti and more).”

He adds that the new films of Black Sheep and C1 Originals would cater to younger audiences since “the creators are mostly fresh filmmakers with stories reflecting the new Filipino culture and the lifestyle of this generation.”

On the other hand, viewers looking for a dose of nostalgia could catch the classics and older movies restored by ABSCBN Film Restoration which are shown on C1 every Sunday.

Beyond movies

At 25 years old, C1 has gone beyond merely airing movies and magazine and talk shows, living up to its promise of “laging kasama.”

Even as 95% of its programming remains dedicated to movies, it has branched out to producing films and discovering talent through its C1 Originals film festival, now going on its 14th year.

“In 2005, industry output was lacking and doing digital production was cheaper than film productions,” Arguelles recalls about the competition’s beginnings. “C1 Originals supplies content for the channel while discovering new film voices for the industry.”

The annual showcase’s most notable yield is arguably Tonet Jadaone’s “That Thing Called Tadhana” from the 2014 festival. But C1 Originals also paved the way for gems such as “Confessional,” “Changing Partners,” “Ang Babaeng Humayo,” “Si Chedeng at si Apple,” “Baka Bukas,” “Nervous Translation,” “Hamog,” “Esprit de Corps” and “Shift,” among others, to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience.

These films, Arguelles points out, “won awards and international recognitions for achieving new content directions in Philippine cinema.”

C1 regularly organizes outdoor movie screenings dubbed OpenAir C1. The initiative aims to bring the moviegoing experience face to face to the viewers, pumped up with celebrity appearances,  live music and games. In the latest edition this summer in Nuvali, Laguna, hundreds of fans swooned over “The Hows Of Us” and the Angelica Panganiban-Carlo Aquino starrer “Exes Baggage.”

The 2018 edition, also held in Nuvali, paired Star Cinema’s “Unexpectedly Yours” with “Power Rangers.”

A Christmas OpenAir C1 hosted by Lancaster New City, Cavite in 2017 featured backto-back Star Cinema hits, “Love You to the Stars and Back” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love”; earlier, in the summer of 2017, OpenAir C1 returned to Nuvali for a screening of “La La Land,” and “My Exs and Whys” with Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.

The premier cable channel is also focused on growing on YouTube, where it streams full-length films and program clips. As of this writing, C1 has compiled more than 130,000 subscribers and 16 million views on the platform.

Arguelles stresses that streaming services present the young Filipino audience with a new option when it comes to their online entertainment needs.

The challenge for C1, then, is to present its content with better technology, signal, curation and overall quality.

As it moves forward, the “HBO of the Philippines” continues to look to the example of the 46-year-old network.

“It remains the ideal since C1 is still aiming for local productions of series, miniseries and biography features. At the same time, we want to do more collaborations with platforms such as iWant and YouTube. We also hope to continue producing more diverse and exciting films,” Arguelles says.

 C1 channel head Ronald Arguelles with ABS-CBN Films management committee members Marizel Samson, Olivia Lamasan, Kriz Gazmen and Jacqueline Liu C1 channel head Ronald Arguelles with ABS-CBN Films management committee members Marizel Samson, Olivia Lamasan, Kriz Gazmen and Jacqueline Liu

The opening night of C1 Originals 2018 in Gateway Dolby ATMOSThe opening night of C1 Originals 2018 in Gateway Dolby ATMOS

 Arguelles at the C1 Originals 2018 press conference. On the cover: Arguelles is interviewed by ABS-CBN News’ MJ Felipe Arguelles at the C1 Originals 2018 press conference. On the cover: Arguelles is interviewed by ABS-CBN News’ MJ Felipe

The now iconic poster of ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’ from C1 Originals 2014The now iconic poster of ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’ from C1 Originals 2014