MMFF prepares for possible box office dip

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ExeCom hopes for sleeper hit to emerge from Magic 8
Not only did the selection of an all-independent line up as the eight official entries to the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival come as a big surprise, but it also sparked a major controversy in the local movie industry, elating or disappointing, and offending or pleasing stakeholders and the public alike.

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At a forum hosted by journalist-entrepreneur Wilson Lee Flores’ Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City, the MMFF Executive Committee (ExeCom) defended the results of the Selection Committee whose members were conspicuously absent from the roundtable, save for Selection Committee Chair Dr. Nicanor Tiongson (founding member of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino).

Speaking for them, ExeCom member Boots Roa-Rodrigo said to begin with that the committee did not focus on whether the festival will succeed at the box office because they did had no distinction between mainstream and indie films in voting for the finalists.

(From left) ‘Oro’ director Alvin Yapan, forum moderator Wilson Lee Flores, Selection Committee Chair Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, Executive Committee members Boots Anson Roa Rodrigo, Krip Yuson, Moira Lang and MMFF PR Head Noel Ferrer

(From left) ‘Oro’ director Alvin Yapan, forum moderator Wilson Lee Flores, Selection Committee Chair Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, Executive Committee members Boots Anson Roa Rodrigo, Krip Yuson, Moira Lang and MMFF PR Head Noel Ferrer

“I’m going to speak as two bodies—as head of Mowelfund (Movie Workers Welfare Foundation) and as member of MMFF Executive Committee,” she declared. “Historically, MMFF gives Mowelfund 70-percent of its operational costs through the year so and we adapt [to that budget]with no complaints. The most important thing here is that the accounting, funding, and finances are transparent.

“So if the earnings this year becomes less, that is predictable and also understandable. And we are ready if that happens. We will not take it negatively. What’s important for us is that we should not lose resources to give to our beneficiaries,” she continued.

The Mowelfund is credited for: expanding the Metro Manila Film Festival to a national event as the MMFF-P (Metro Manila Film Festival Philippines); rationalizing the movie industry with its contributions in creating agencies like the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP); reorganizing the Movie and Television Review and Classification (MTRCB); initiating the campaign against film and video piracy; and providing aid to movie workers who are sick, meet accidents, and in death.

“All these years, even though we get much less from the MMFF, we never fail to give our share to thousands of beneficiaries. If we have to cut cost in other areas we will. If we have to beg from other agencies or sponsors we will do it. If we have to be creative in fund raising we will be creative,” Roa added.

Diminished box office returns is a very probable scenario for the ExeCom given the departure from the yearly blockbuster franchises and players in the Magic 8. However, they also believe that an excellent product pushed via a marketing blitz, including word-of-mouth, may still entice consumers to “take a bite” of this new fare.

“We’ve had sleepers the past years but their earnings grew bigger because of word-of-mouth marketing and continuous promotion. We are hoping that this happens again as we are confident that the work of our public relations and marketing committee is really very intense including the Play date, Monitoring, Booking and Distribution Committees. They work 24/7 so we can only hope for the best and take a positive attitude here,” she explained.

Asked about the MMFF’s arrangement with cinemas what with the “first day, last day policy” if a movie shown does not meet the required revenue, Roa reported they were able to convince theater owners to waive this policy for the festival.

“That is crucial to make this change work with the cooperation of stakeholders and theater operators. The signs are encouraging that they are listening. For example, this year, the ‘first and last day policy’ won’t apply anymore because there are two kinds of hits—a blockbuster hit and a sleeper hit. A blockbuster means a movie earns so much on the first day; a sleeper hit means it doesn’t earn much on the first few days but recovers in the next week. The best examples are Heneral Luna and Kimmy Dora, which became super hits because of word-of-mouth [marketing],” ExeCom member and Play date, Sales and Monitoring Committee member Moira Lang explained.

According to Lang, starting December 25, her committee is scheduled to meet everyday until the New Year’s Eve to provide a venue for cinema owners who would like to pull out one or two movies from their screens to defend their plea.

The ExeCom members present further reiterated that there continues to be “cohesiveness and unity of efforts” in the lead up to this year’s MMFF. They related they are doing all they can to help the eight films, whether through marketing efforts or omnibus trailers to make this year’s festival a worthy event for Filipino moviegoers.

To help augment finances, former actor and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has pledged to sponsor the traditional Parade of Stars on December 23. Funds saved for this will be diverted to block screenings for the Magic 8.

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