New Frontier Theater: A Classic Reborn

BY: Rohn Romulo

FROM this year’s triumphant ‘The EDDYS (Entertainment Editors’ Choice)’ to world-class shows like Russian ballet’s ‘Swan Lake,’ Japan’s ‘Drum Tao,’ and numerous concerts, and K-Pop shows and fan meets, this cultural gem in Araneta Center shines anew for a new generation of audiences.

The staging of the 3rd EDDYS just last month at the landmark New Frontier Theater seemed like a true ‘coming home’ of sorts. To those that still remember, the heydays of Philippine cinema were highlighted by glamorous movie premieres with glitzy celebrity appearances, and this stand-alone theater provided a perfect venue, with its canopied drop-off, an expansive lobby, and a mezzanine area for a more private audience with VIP guests.

The 3rd EDDYs Awards held last month at the New Frontier Theater (courtesy of New Frontier Theater)

The New Frontier Cinema and Theater opened in 1967, then the largest in Asia with a seating capacity of 3,000. This was seven years after its big brother, the Araneta Coliseum, first opened its doors to the public with a massive boxing bout between the legendary Flash Elorde who defeated Harold Gomes before a sell-out crowd of over 36,000 people.

It was a great decade of exciting developments and great possibilities, with Quezon City competing with Manila as the center of entertainment and lifestyle. While the Big Dome would later host landmark events in the country like the first-ever Binibining Pilipinas pageant in 1964, and the globally historic Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier “Thrilla In Manila” bout in 1975, the New Frontier quietly added luster to the entertainment offerings within the Araneta Center. The same year New Frontier Cinema debuted, the 900-capacity New Frontier Skating Rink also opened to become a go-to hangout for adventure seekers.

The Binibining Pilipinas 2019 National Costume presentation at the New Frontier Theater (courtesy of New Frontier Theater)

Back in the days, movies were promoted via giant hand-painted billboards along highways, from the intersection of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard to the streets of Manila, among others. The 1970s were touted as the Second Golden Age of Philippine cinema right until about the early ’80s. Films were the biggest form of out-of-home entertainment for a long time, until progress brought us home entertainment systems and, later, cable TV. The boom of shopping malls later brought the cinemas into the confines of one-stop-shops,and spelled the decline of the stand-alone movie houses. But with every end comes a new beginning.

After a P500M renovation and a brief naming rights deal, the New Frontier Theater (NFT) returns to its former glory and now offers so much more. Now a multi-purpose 2,385-capacity venue, it comes equipped with the latest in audio, visual, and lighting technologies. Added to that is the line of restaurants along its perimeter to cater to patrons before and after shows.

Rapper Russ first time in Manila with a sold out show at the New Frontier Theater (courtesy of New Frontier Theater)

Opened in August 2016 under a different name, it hosted the Quezon City government-commissioned restaging of “MLQ,” a musical about the life and times of President Manuel L. Quezon on his 137th birth anniversary, and in line with the city’s 75th anniversary. It has since everything from concerts, awards shows, and K-pop fan meets, to corporate events and international performances.

The EDDYS, in fact, held its first awards night at The New Frontier in 2017. It has hosted other awards shows like the 30th Awit Awards, MYX Music Awards (2016-2017), Gawad Urian (2016), the 41st MMFF, the 29th Star Awards for TV, and many others.

Two of the most recent internationally acclaimed series of shows were also held here: The Bolshoi Ballet “La Classique” performances of “Swan Lake” just last June; and Japanese Troupe “Drum Tao” in 2018. Foreign bands and artists have also played the NFT, including Mayday Parade, Phoenix, Little Mix, Charlie Puth, David Archuleta, A1 (“Here We Come-Back”), as well as rock band Mr. Big, metalheads Slayer, and progressive metal band Dream Theater. The super sold out shows of Canadian singer/songwriter Daniel Caesar, and rapper Russ were also held here.

Top local artists have also held shows here, including Sarah Geronimo (“The Great Unknown”), Gary Valenciano (“Gary V Presents”), Martin Nievera (“Kahapon… Ngayon”), to name a few. The original local production of “Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag – Musical” premiered in NFT. Pageant-wise, the theater has also been the venue for the Binibining Pilipinas National Costume Competitions; and for the first time played host to Miss Teen Philippines pageant this year.

Bolshoi Ballet La Classique performing SWAN LAKE with the Russian Symphony Orchestra at the New Frontier Theater (courtesy of New Frontier Theater)

K-Pop fans have also found a home at the New Frontier Theater, with a host of idol fan meets/shows happening at the venue throughout the year. Past gatherings were the EXO Happy Fiesta (2017); this year’s MNL 48 in April, Kroean actor first Seo Kang Joon’s first Philippine fan meet, and Bae Jin-Young’s first Asia Fan Meet all in May; the BoyzAsia Fan-Con in June; Nam Joo Hyuk’s “Private Stage (Close-Up),” and JBJ “Come True” first Manila fan meet both in 2017; and many others.

Indeed, there is something for everyone at the New Frontier Theater. Upcoming shows include: the GFriend Asia Tour “Go Go GFriend” (Aug. 25); South Korean rap/rock band NFlying “Up All Night” (Sept. 1); Mike Shinoda “Post Traumatic Tour” (Sept. 6); The Maine Tour “You Are OK” (Sept 14); Jay Park “Sexy 4Eva in Asia” World Tour (Sept. 22); MayWard’s concert (Sept. 27); and Jung Hae “In One Summer Night” fan meet (Sept. 28). Tickets to these shows are available on Ticketnet.com.ph.

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