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MANILA, Philippines – After a successful investment in the critically acclaimed historical film, GomBurZa, tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) is not afraid to take more gambles in the risky movie business after putting in money in the film, GG or Good Game, starring Donnie Pangilinan and his mother, actress Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.
GG, which opened in theaters on January 24, is jointly produced by MVP’s MQuest Ventures, Mediaworks, and Create Cinema, a production house that focuses on “groundbreaking cinema.”
It’s a high-stakes gamble for the producers since the movie veers away from the usual romance or rom-com, horror, and fantasy that moviegoers are familiar with. GG is the Philippines’ first full-length esports movie that depicts the challenges and victories of esports players. Donny plays Seth, an aspiring, passionate egamer.
Jane Basas, president and CEO of Pangilinan’s MQuest Ventures, told Rappler they’re “definitely upbeat” with the Philippine movie industry, especially after a successful Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2023 which set a new box-office festival record of P1.069 billion as of January 7.
In an email interview with Rappler, Basas said GomBurZa was “well-received because it appealed to the sense of nationalism that we Filipinos share, and because it told the compelling and emotionally-charged story of the martyrdom of the three Filipino priests.”
“Watching movies in cinemas will remain part of how Filipinos spend quality time with friends and family. Times have changed, but we are definitely upbeat because of how the Pinoy audience reacted to GomBurZa and the other films of the Metro Manila Film Festival. We hope to continue to do our part in growing the movie audience by producing films that people will love to watch,” she added.
Basas declined to say how much GomBurZa earned in the box-office, but MMFF chairman Don Artes earlier said most MMFF films had 8-digit earnings.
GomBurZa won the most number of awards in the MMFF’s 49th edition, including 2nd Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Director (Pepe Diokno), Best Actor (Cedrick Juan as Father Burgos), Best Production Design, Best Sound Design, and the Gatpuno Antonio Villegas Cultural Award.
GG, however, is unlikely to reach the success of the Pepe Diokno-helmed historical film, which was still showing in select Philippine cinemas four weeks after it premiered in the MMFF on December 25, 2023. Only a few cinemas were still showing GG as of February 1, Thursday.
MQuest Ventures may have gotten the perfect partner in professional coach Anthony Pangilinan’s outfit, Mediaworks, for this movie project.
Like what many of those behind the top MMFF entries did to make people watch their films, the whole Pangilinan family is actively promoting GG throughout the country.
Donny, Maricel, and other cast members have been busy promoting the film on television shows of MVP’s television channel, TV5, such as on E.A.T. Bulaga, and on ABS-CBN shows such as It’s Showtime and Magandang Buhay. Donny and Belle are both Kapamilya stars.
GG had a large community that could have helped generate the all-important word of mouth to get people to watch the film in cinemas. There are millions of DonBelle fans who support the activities of the love team, whose popularity skyrocketed after Donny and Belle Mariano’s hit ABS-CBN teleserye He’s Into Her in May 2021.
The fan communities, dubbed Bubblies and the DonBelles, have been following Donny and his mother in their promotional tours, such as in Cebu where the fans are called “Cebubblies.”
There are also other DonBelle fans such as the Titas of DonBelle who are helping promote the movie like retweeting film distributor Star Cinema’s GG-related tweets.
Mariano, with 3 million followers on Instagram, has been supporting Donny promote the movie. She showed up at the red carpet movie premiere held in SM Megamall on January 23.
Donny, also with 3 million followers on Instagram, has been working round the clock to promote GG. The mother-and-son tandem, with help from the Pangilinan celebrity clan, has been traveling to many places in Luzon and the Visayas for cinema tours, mall shows and social media promotions.
Donnie’s father, Anthony, is leading his whole family in the big push for GG. It’s his first movie production and he’s using his skills as motivational speaker to get people to watch the movie. He’s also been active on his social media accounts, updating the public on his family’s promotional activities.
For instance, in his post on January 30, Tuesday, Anthony talked about the roots of the Pangilinan family in Pampanga as they visited the province in central Luzon, a roughly two-hour drive north from Manila.
“Not sure people know but we come from Pampanga. On my side, my Daddy Dony from Sto. Tomas, and on @mommymaricel’s side, Daddy Tony from Macabebe!” he said.
Former Senator Kiko Pangilinan, with 1.1 million followers on Facebook, has given his full support to his younger brother, calling GG a “great movie!!!” and showing up at the movie premiere on January 23. Kiko got 9.3 million votes and placed second in the 2022 vice-presidential race that was won by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
“Ang ganda ng theme: family, passion, pagpupursige (The theme is beautiful: family, passion, and perseverance),” said Kiko at the premiere.
Gary Valenciano, another member of the clan, has urged his followers to watch the film, saying that it’s not just about esports but about family. Gary’s wife, Angeli, is the sister of the Pangilinan brothers.
Many Filipino esports gamers gave their support by endorsing the movie, saying the producers were able to show what an esports athlete goes through.
MQuest and Mediaworks picked the most qualified film distributor for the movie, ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema. Industry veterans said Star Cinema has not just the track record in producing box-office hits and recognizing good content, but it also has a good relationship with cinema operators.
GG adopted a similar strategy taken by GomBurZa – the tried and tested on-the-ground campaign as well as tri-media promotions. There are, differences, however, which could lead to a different outcome.
For instance, GomBurZa co-producer Jesuit Communications (JesCom), a religious organization, encouraged people to have a personal stake in the movie by asking for local and foreign donations.
Since it’s a historical and religious film, the GomBurZa team was also able to tap schools and the clergy to promote the movie. For instance, schools can sponsor special cinema GomBurZa screenings, dubbed “Dalhin ang Eskwelahan sa Sinehan” (Bring the School to the Cinema).
They also had special block screenings by Catholics such as the Archdiocese of San Fernando and other religious groups in Pampanga. These have helped extend the movie in theaters. It was still showing in more than 30 cinemas five weeks after opening on December 25, when movies are normally replaced with new ones after two weeks.
Some of the screenings were also held for a cause, with proceeds supporting, for instance, the Pawssion Project, a non-profit organization that rescues cats and dogs.
GomBurZa went into merchandising by producing t-shirts that were sold during events and online, although GG likewise has this.
GomBurZa is likely to get more acclaim in the first Manila International Film Festival (MIFF) in Los Angeles, California from January 29 to February 2. The winner in the MIFF will get a chance to make US-based feature film co-produced by Birns & Sawyer.
After GomBurZa and GG, what’s next for MVP’s MQuest Ventures?
“Apart from GG, there are several other movies that we have planned for the year,” Basas told Rappler. These films may not necessarily come out in movie theaters as its first window, given the breadth of our video platforms. The goal is to continue to make quality and meaningful Filipino films, distribute them so that many Filipinos can watch, and hopefully, also help get the Filipino audience back into cinemas.”
She said Pangilinan’s MediaQuest Holdings, where she is also president and CEO, owns “multiple platforms that allow for multiple monetization models.”
“Investing in films also comes naturally to us as we own and operate multiple video platforms across our group: from free-to-air, to direct-to-home and cable pay tv services, OTT [Over The Top] subscription services, and other digital platforms. This means that monetization for these film projects can happen across all our media assets, and therefore risks are mitigated,” Basas said.
She added they believe these investments will redound to the good of the country.
“When these film investments are made, it is always with the intention of maximizing monetization across these platforms. In the end, we are confident we can make a substantial contribution to creative industries in our country.” – Rappler.com