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MANILA, Philippines – After a dismal 2023 for most Philippine movies, the country’s biggest annual film festival has indicated that not all is lost on the local cinema industry.
The annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which started on Christmas Day, December 25, reached its target of P700 million combined for the 10 participating movies on January 2, Tuesday.
“It’s [box office] much higher than the P501 million in 2022,” Romando Artes, chairman of the MMFF, told One Balita PH on Thursday, January 4, adding that they expect to easily surpass the P700-million target since people can still watch until Sunday.
Unofficially leading the box office is Rewind, the comeback romance tearjerker of real-life couple Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, also known as DongYan. Other films in the festival are: Firefly, GomBurZa, Mallari, When I Met You in Tokyo, Family of Two, Penduko, Becky and Badette, Kampon, Broken Heart’s Trip.
Artes attributed the success of this year’s festival to better quality films, as well as the active promotion by the celebrities of the movies on the ground.
“Ang tingin kong malaking factor ay magaganda yung pelikula (I think the big factor is the quality of the films),” Artes said.
In previous editions of the MMFF pre-pandemic, escapist movies by comedians Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto were often the top grossers but were often criticized for their quality. This year, both do not have any entry in the 49th edition of the MMFF.
Hope in 2024
Jose Javier Reyes, a juror in this year’s festival, praised the 2023 entries, saying the “MMFF should be a showcase of what can be done with Philippine cinema.”
“With this year’s assortment of entries, a glimpse of that promise has been fulfilled with the hope that 2024 will offer greater opportunities for producers to make great films that the Filipino audience will support with pride,” said Reyes, also a film director, in a December 27 blog.
Although this year’s festival has the same mix of romance, comedy, horror, drama, and fantasy, the addition of historical film GomBurZa gave a fresh option for moviegoers. Best picture film Firefly, produced by GMA Pictures and GMA Public Affairs, was also not the formulaic fantasy movie that catered to children.
In an earlier post, Reyes had said that “the road map of Filipino cinema in the year to come can be assessed by the patronage of the local audiences to go out and see their Christmas movies again.”
The Philippine film industry has been in dire straits for several years now, especially as cinema-goers turn to streaming platforms instead of watching in theaters. Only a handful of local movies make money, compared to the industry’s heyday in the sixties and seventies when it was producing around 200 films per year, with big theaters often filled with patrons.
In an interview with Rappler on Thursday, Jose Maria Bartolome, a former GMA Network consultant who now teaches broadcast communications at the UP College of Mass Communications, attributed Rewind’s success to its main film producer Star Cinema’s knowledge of what young Filipino moviegoers want to see.
Dantes and Rivera are Kapuso stars but this movie is co-produced by Star Cinema, the cinema outfit of GMA’s former rival, ABS-CBN Corporation, with APT Entertainment and Dantes’ Agostodos Pictures.
“Kabisado na nila [Star Cinema] ang formula (They’re already familiar with the formula),” he said. “Meron nang parokyano (They already have [regular] patrons).”
Among the 10 films in this year’s MMFF, Bartolome said it’s also Rewind that has the “star value” for the current young movie-going audience. Rivera, who rose to fame via the hit 2007 teleserye Marimar, is 39, while husband Dantes is 43.
@marianrivera 😍 Pa #REWIND uli ng sayaw na ito ♥️ #MarianRivera #DongYan #FYP ♬ original sound – Marian Rivera
Dantes and Rivera are also active on the popular social media platform, TikTok, with Rivera having 8 million followers and Dantes with over a million. Their dance videos often rack up millions in views.
Another comeback romance movie in this year’s festival, When I Met You in Tokyo, is topbilled by showbiz veterans, Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon. Now in their senior years, their movie isn’t doing as well as Rewind despite similar promotional compaigns such as mall tours.
Bartolome also cited the success of Star Cinema’s romance movies The Hows of Us in 2018, followed by Hello, Love, Goodbye in 2019. Both earned over P800 million each at the box office and are the Philippines’ highest grossing movies.
The Hows of Us stars Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, which broke up officially in November after an 11-year relationship. In Hello, Love, Goodbye, Bernardo was paired with GMA’s biggest star, Alden Richards.
The breakup of KathNiel as well as the split of another popular Kapamilya couple, Kim Chiu with Xian Lim, may have been a factor also in Rewind’s success, with Filipinos wanting to see a still real-life couple on the big screen.
Bartolome also noted other Star Cinema movies that did well in the box office like the romance films of John Lloyd with several actresses, such as Bea Alonzo, Sarah Geronimo, and Jennylyn Mercado.
Reyes, meantime, urged Philippine film producers to continue upgrading the quality of local films, and to “cater to an audience over and beyond the margins of our national territory.”
“We should stretch the boundaries to an international market, turning our popular culture into an integral part of the soft economy of the country with the hope of globalizing our cinematic output,” he said in another blog post. – Rappler.com