MANILA, Philippines – Before the likes of Viva Films, Regal Films, and Star Cinema dominated the Philippines box office, there existed the movie companies that started it all.
Here's a quick look back at the "big 4":
LVN was founded in 1938 by Narcisa de Leon, Carmen Villongco, and Eleuterio Navoa Jr. The initials "LVN" were taken from the founders’ family names. Narcisa or Doña Sisang was the company's executive producer.
The first film produced by LVN was Giliw Ko in 1939. It was a huge success. It was also LVN who produced the movie Ibong Adarna in 1941. It was the first Filipino film to color sequences frame by frame.
After World War II, LVN Pictures resumed making films and continued to build up more actors and actresses. Among the famous actors under LVN included Nida Blanca, Nestor de Villa, Armando Goyena, Rosa Rosal, Jaime dela Rosa, and Mila del Sol.
It was LVN that produced the movie Orasang Ginto, the first Filipino post-World War II movie, in 1946. Other films under LVN include Batalyon XIII (1949); Waray-Waray (1954), starring Nida Blanca and Nestor de Villa; Prinsipe Amante (1950); Badjao (1957); and Anak Dalita (1956).
LVN Pictures stopped making films in 1961 but continued to serve the movie industry with its full color processing laboratory. They also offered film editing services. Doña Sisang tried her luck in independent movie production and formed Dalisay Pictures Inc, through which she and her brother Delfin Buencamino produced films.
The film studio produced one last film in 1980 — Kakabakaba Ka Ba directed by Mike de Leon, the grandson of Doña Sisang.
The facilities of the LVN studio were formally shut down in 2005.
The studio, which was located along P. Tuazon Boulevard, Cubao, Quezon City, has since been torn down to make way for a high-rise building.
Lebran was established in 1949 by William Brandt, Manuel Valdes, Rafael Anton, Rita Valdes Araneta, and Carmen Valdes Nieto.
Lebran produced movies not just for the Filipino audience but the Asian market. In a Philippine Star article, writer Danny Dolor listed some of Lebran's best-known films:
Some of the stars who made films under Lebran include Leopoldo Salcedo, Erlinda Cortes, Oscar Moreno, Manuel Conde, and Anita Linda.
Lebran is also considered the first movie studio that professionalized production design in film.
Lebran stopped producing films in 1956 due to poor return of investment. Its owners went on to concentrate in the real estate business.
Sampaguita Pictures was founded in 1937. Its first movie was Bituing Marikit, starring Elsa Oria and Rogelio dela Rosa.
In 1939, Carmen Rosales was added to the movie company’s roster of talents. Her team up with Rogelio dela Rosa would soon gain fame through movies such as Takip-Silim, Señorita, Lambingan, and Colegiala.
Following World War II, Sampaguita was revived under the leadership of Judge Jose Vera, who went on to produce films such as Gerardo de Leon's So Long, America (1946), and Isumpa Mo,Giliw (1947).
In 1950, a fire destroyed the Sampaguita studio. The company produced the low-budget movie Roberta, starring Tessie Agana, which became a success and was able to bring back business in 1951. Judge Jose's son-in-law, Dr Jose Perez, took over the company with his wife Azucena.
It was under Dr Jose and Azucena's (called Mama Nene in showbiz circles) leadership that Sampaguita produced big names such as Gloria Romero, Luis Gonzales, Dolphy, Chichay, Lolita Rodriguez, Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, Eddie Gutierrez, German Moreno, and more.
Following Dr Jose's death, his children, led by his eldest daughter Marichu Vera-Perez, took over. Sampaguita closed its production in the '80s after producing one final movie — Batch 81.
Today, the Sampaguita compound located in New Manila, Quezon City has been renovated into an events place.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Sampaguita Gardens (@sampaguita_ph) on Jun 15, 2015 at 11:21pm PDT
Premiere Productions was founded in 1946 in Caloocan under the leadership of Dr Ciriaco Santiago, Adela Hermoso Santiago, Silvestre Punzalan, Ricardo Marcelino, Jose P. Osorio, Ricardo Balatbat, and Generoso Santiago.
Premiere made its first film called Probinsyana starring Carmen Rosales and Jose Padilla Jr and directed by Susana C. de Guzman. Under Dr Ciriaco and his son Cirio, the company produced films such as Kamay ni Satanas (1950), Sisa (1951), Salabusab (1954), Kalibre .45 (1957), Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo (1976), and Ifugao (1954).
Premiere also became known in the action genre with names such as Efren Reyes, Jose Padilla Jr, Fernando Poe Jr, Bob Soler, and Eddie Fernandez headlining the company's movies. National artist Gerardo de Leon made many of his movies under Premiere. His titles under Premiere include 48 Oras, Padre Burgos, and Diego Silang
The company continued making films in the '90s but has since stopped. — Rappler.com