It’s a typical Friday night at the Regal Cinemas Village Square. A crowd is filling up one of the larger auditoriums, with audience members ranging from senior citizens to a baby in a carrier. But this isn’t a mainstream Hollywood release, or even one of the independent films for which Village Square is known among cinephiles. It’s Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy (starring Filipino comedy superstar Vice Ganda), one of dozens of movies that play throughout the year at Village Square targeting specific cultural communities.
The audience for this particular screening is almost entirely Filipino, enticed via advertisements on satellite network The Filipino Channel. Before the feature begins, there’s a preview for another Filipino movie, the romantic comedy Bride for Rent, tacked on following trailers for the likes of Vampire Academy and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Outside in the lobby is a poster for Hasee Toh Phasee, a film from Bollywood (India’s massive film industry) that opens here February 7.
For most moviegoers, these films are little more than a curiosity to pass on the way to watching something they’ve seen advertised on TV or at least read about online. For Regal, however, they’ve become an integral part of doing business. The theater chain has been playing Filipino movies at Village Square since 2006, and has added Bollywood movies in more recent years. “The distributor has identified the pockets around the country that have a significant concentration of their demographic, and has focused [its] marketing and engagements in those areas, including Las Vegas, which is one of the stronger in the country,” says Paul Serwitz, Regal’s vice president of film and CinemaArt, of the Filipino releases. “Although the Bollywood distributors do the same market research as the Filipino distributors, Regal has been very proactive in expanding the Bollywood footprint across the country.” Regal’s website lists 39 of its theaters around the U.S. that regularly show Bollywood movies.
For nurse Marilou Aguilar-Galdo, 46, seeing movies from the Philippines is a valuable link to her home country, which she left more than 20 years ago to move to the U.S. “I mostly like the view—the houses, the food,” she says. “Also, it’s more about me and my friends. We go and we eat out. It’s kind of our special thing.”
For Indian-American UNLV student Ravi Kumar, 20, who was born in New York but grew up watching Bollywood movies, it provides a connection to the local Indian community. “Mostly it’s cousins, family, because there’s not a lot of Indian people here,” he says of the people he attends the movies with. “Every once in a while it’s kind of shocking to see an American there.”
The audience at Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy laughs consistently throughout the broad, ridiculous comedy full of lowbrow humor and contrived situations. Families and friends chat in multiple languages as they file out of the theater. Just another Friday night at the movies.