The year 2016, to borrow a millennial catchphrase, was “kind” to Star Cinema. In fact, big boss Malou Santos considers the past year one of the company’s best years, notwithstanding the challenges thrown their way.
Throughout the year, Star Cinema treated moviegoers to everything from crowd-pleasing dramas such as “Everything about Her,” “Barcelona: A Love Untold” and “The Unmarried Wife,” to crossover products that sought to blend millennial carefree characters with mainstream storytelling (“Always Be My Maybe,” “Just the Three of Us” and “The Third Party”).
The top film production and distribution company’s forays into indie via “Dukot,” “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” and “Ang Babaeng Humayo” also proved to be winners, with the latter even copping the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 73rd Venice Film Festival last September.
The cherry on top of 2016 would have to be the new records set by “Super Parental Guardians” and “Vince and Kath and James.
“Super Parental Guardians” with Vice Ganda and Coco Martin was released ahead of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). It earned nearly P600 million at the box office to become the highest-grossing Filipino film of all time. (The previous record holder, “Beauty and the Bestie” with P528.95 million, is also a Star Cinema production.)
Meanwhile, “Vince and Kath and James” bannered by ABSCBN’s up-and-coming young talents was the 2016 MMFF top-grosser.
A total of eight Star Cinema releases breached the P100-million mark in 2016 alone.
The company also reported grosses of P2.42 billion theatrically in 2016, almost matching 2015’s P2.6 billion.
“This was truly a celebration for us. In the midst of an overall global cinema downturn, rampant piracy and the growth of online entertainment, it is really a feat to keep the grosses at healthy levels,” Santos points out.
However, the Star Creatives COO clarifies, cinema products are not computed based solely on theatrical revenue.
“When you compute for profits down the line to payper- view, cable, free TV, video and licensing, you will find that cinematic products today are far more profitable than the years before. There are so many more platforms to which we can sell our movies.”
Keeping in step
As ABS-CBN transitions into a digital company, Star Cinema has kept in step, not only by making its films digital but also making them available in platforms such as iTunes and iFlix.
In 2015, the company took a gamble by releasing the madefor- mobile four-part movie “Must Date the Playboy” on ABS-CBNmobile. Viewer reception to the Kim Chiu-Xian Lim vehicle convinced Santos that Pinoys are open to tapping mobile to watch films.
“The biggest question for any producer now is: will moviegoers’ tastes change once they patronize full-length features online, more than in the physical cinemas? No one has the answer to this, not even Hollywood.”
But, she asserts, regardless of how the product is consumed, the Star Cinema hallmarks will always be in the movies it offers: relief from the problems of daily life, family values, love and hope.
The concept of sulit or value for money also comes into play. Viewers want a full experience that not only allows them to show their support for their idols, but also to forget their problems, if only for a couple of hours. At the same time, they look forward to a celluloid experience that affirms the values they hold dear.
“The films that Star Cinema produces are not made purely for business but also in service of our Kapamilya all over the world—to help them connect and reconnect with their loved ones, and even with themselves.
“Everyone in Star Cinema is driven by this shared mission to provide our audience with solid, entertaining and unforgettable movie experiences,” Santos says.
First P100-M movie
Star Cinema’s first movie to reach the P100-million mark was “Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko.” Released in 1999, the Fernando Poe Jr.-Judy Ann Santos starrer raked in P114.8 million. Adjusted for inflation, that comes out at P551 million.
A year later, the film production and distribution company bested its own record in terms of highest number of tickets sold with “Anak.” The family drama movie top billed by Vilma Santos and Claudine Barretto earned P165.9 million.
“In today’s ticket prices, that would be a whopping P760 million. That would make ‘Anak’ the Philippines’ all-time highest grosser. It still holds the record as Star Cinema’s most watched film with over four million tickets sold,” Santos says.
The veteran TV and movie executive also adds “Ang Tanging Ina” to her list of memorable Star Cinema blockbusters. The 2003 release unexpectedly went on to become a four-movie franchise with an enduring impact on a generation of viewers who laughed and cried with Ina Montecillo (portrayed by Ai- Ai delas Alas) and her children, she notes.
With a perfect record—the company is behind 10 out of 10 entries in the list of highestgrossing Filipino movies of all time—Star Cinema must have a fail-safe formula locked up in a vault somewhere.
The avowed movie fan simply chalks it up to gut feel—a mix of experience, good research, business risk-taking and, of course, a fan mentality that dates back to her growingup years in Mindoro.
“I would like to think that this hunch is useful, not only in stories, but more so in casting, choice of play date and promotional strategy.
“Moviemaking is part science, part art and part psychic powers,” she sums up, laughing.
The Lopez vision
What can Kapamilya expect from Star Cinema, which will mark 25 colorful and recordbreaking years in Philippine TV and cinema in 2018?
“The Lopez vision is service, and we will always be there to serve the Filipino people.
“We will always offer full, enriching entertainment. It will be something they can enjoy, so they can forget their troubles for a while and leave the cinema house empowered to face the real world again. It will always be something they can bring their loved one to, without fear of problematic content. It will always belong to the ABSCBN Kapamilya universe of products that promote values,” the Star Cinema chief says.
Ready for big changes
But even as it sticks to the values laid down by the late patriarch Eugenio Lopez Sr. and his family, the company also looks forward and prepares for the big changes ahead.
“We are prepared… We know the moviegoers may see this enriching cinematic experience not anymore in the cinemas, but equally on their mobiles, tablets, laptops or future inventions. We know the platform will give rise to new stars with greater authenticity. We know that new ways of storytelling provide a greater variety of choice for viewers.
“We will be there with them all the way,” Santos promises.