Burma's first film was a recording of the funeral of Tun Shein - a leading politician of the 1910s, who campaigned for Burmese independence in London. It was captured with a second-hand camera by Ohn Maung and was screened at the Royal Cinema, near Scott Market (now Bogyoke Market), which belonged to a Mr Achar, a friend of Ohn Maung. Despite its documentary nature, the Burmese public was very proud of the film, which opened with the notice "Please accept our apologies for the poor quality of the film". Ohn Maung then founded The Burma Film Company to produce and direct more films. He hired Nyi Pu (Burma's first actor) to shoot the first Burmese silent film Myitta Ne Thuya (Love and Liquor) which proved a major success, despite its poor quality due to a fixed camera position and inadequate film accessories. The film opened with the title "Burma Film Presents: Love and Liquor" but there were no credits or mention of the cast. It was based on a story by P Moe Nin about how gambling and alcohol destroyed a man's life. The day the film premiered, 13 October 1920, is commemorated annually as the Myanmar Movie Day.
In the era that followed the political events of 1988, the film industry has been increasingly controlled by the government. After the 1989 move by the government to open up the economy, the movie industry was privatised. The film company Mingala became the most powerful company in the industry. Film stars who had been involved in the political activities of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Aung Lwin and Tun Wai, were banned from appearing in films. The films of some directors such as Win Pe have also been banned. The government issues strict rules on censorship and largely determines who produces films, as well as who gets academy awards. Over the years, the movie industry has also shifted to producing many lower budget direct-to-video films. Most of the movies produced nowadays are comedies.In 2008, only 12 films worthy of being considered for an Academy Award were made, although at least 800 VCDs were produced. Another issue plaguing the Burmese cinema is a steep decline in the number of theatres in which to screen the films. According to a December 2011 survey, the number of theatres nationwide had declined to just 71 from their peak of 244. The survey also found that most were several-decade-old ageing theatres, and that only six "mini-theaters" had been built in 2009–2011. Moreover, the vast majority of the theatres were located in Yangon and Mandalay alone. Recently Myanmar cinema got visibility in international film festivals. In 2014, The Maw Naing’s The Monk was premiered at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Followed by the participation in main competitions as; Wera Aung’s short film The Robe at 21st Busan International Film Festival and Aung Phyoe’s Cobalt Blue at 72nd Locarno Film Festival.