Box office losers win big at MMFF awards night

FENG Shui star Coco Martin appeared in a talk show a few weeks back and said he prefers to win an acting award rather than his film achieving commercial success.

The multi-awarded actor explained since he started in showbiz doing indie films, receiving accolades for his performance validates his being an actor.

Oddly enough, that’s exactly the opposite of what had happened at the Dec. 27 awards night for the 40th edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Coco Martin in Feng Shui

Coco Martin in Feng Shui sequel

The cast and crew of the film, which director Chito Roño doesn’t want to be called Feng Shui part 2 for some odd reasons, went home empty-handed after the glitzy awards night held at the at the Philippine International Convention Center. And yes, Coco didn’t win an acting trophy that night. The Best Actor plum went to Derek Ramsay for his portrayal of a heartbroken Filipino-American in English Only Please. Derek’s co-star in the romantic comedy, Jennylyn Mercado, who plays a freelance English tutor, won Best Actress.

English Only Please

The festival’s best: Derek Ramsay and Jennylyn Mercado joined by Kian Cipriano.

The romantic comedy produced by Quantum Films was also the most decorated MMFF entry after Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo. It won seven awards including the honors for Best Director for Dan Villegas and Best Screenplay for Antoinette Jadaone. Interestingly English Only Please is not doing well at the tills compared to the Coco-starrer thriller that has already earned more than P88 million after four days.

The historical drama Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo, starring action star Robin Padilla playing national hero Andres Bonifacio, received the Best Picture and the Gatpuno Antonio Villegas Cultural awards.

The movie also took home three other awards, those for Best Musical Score, Best Original Theme Song, and Best Cinematography.

Just the same, Bonifacio stumbles at the box office and can be considered as this year’s MMFF biggest box office bomb given its P90-million production cost.

Robin Padilla in Bonifacio

Box office bomb. Bonifacio’s budget is reportedly figures at P90 million. The epic film has earned P10 million since Christmas day compared to Praybeyt Benjamin that is close to breaching the P300 million mark.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) reported that box office income of this year’s MMFF has so far reached P365 million. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, the overall head of the annual film festival executive committee, said the earnings is 12-percent higher compared with that of last year.

The current four top-grossing films, in no particular order, are: The Amazing Praybet Benjamin, Feng Shui 2, My Big Bossing, and Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles. These entries are leading the rest of the entries in terms of overall earnings since the first day of showing.

Although no official figures from the MMFF have been cited, production houses have already released their films’ earnings based on the data given by third party tabulators and cinema owners. For example, Praybeyt Benjamin has now breached the P100 million-mark. Top-billed by Vice Ganda, the comedy flick has now earned more than P172 million as of 3 p.m. Sunday.

And basing on the films’ performance at the tills, Feng Shui follows Praybeyt Benjamin. In third place is the Vic Sotto-starrer My Big Bossing and closely followed by GMA Films’ Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2.

Honors vs commercial success

In the natural scheme of things, industry workers prefer for their movies not just to earn awards and accolades but to also win big commercially. First of all, mainstream cinema revolves around money to keep the industry afloat.

Going back to what Coco Martin wanted as an actor, Feng Shui still validates him as an actor. One thing, he has shown his versatility starring in a thriller. It’s a first for Coco whom we usually see in heavy drama. The film also proves that he has this commercial charm that woos paying moviegoers to see him on the big screen.

Meanwhile, Derek Ramsay and Jennylyn Mercado winning the top acting awards doesn’t automatically mean that they are the best in the acting department in this year’s MMFF. They are just the logical choice since nobody in the festival has delivered an impressive acting skill, not even Robin Padilla who seems to be detached from the iconic role. Had he completely immersed himself as Andres Bonifacio, he would have given Derek a run for his money. What we saw in Bonifacio was a Robin Padilla acting in a katipunero outfit, nothing more.

But the big question is, are we for commercial success or trophies and honors?

Borrowing what Victor Ginsburgh, a professor of Economics and Resident Fellow at European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics, wrote in his book: “Movies are a prominent example of an art form with immediate critical recognition (prizes), evidence on commercial success (box office), and also expert rankings about their survival, long after the movies have been released (“best movies of all times”).”

The best movies of all time are not just the ones that made it big at the tills. Actually, commercially successful films would be part of history book only as movies that earned big. The best films are those that leave lasting impression, inspire budding filmmakers to create their own masterpieces, and muster innovative techniques in filmmaking allowing industry workers to do the same.

Hence, the biggest winners at the 2014 MMFF do not fit in this category. A few years from now, we would forget about these films. We would only remember, or perhaps read about them as films that earned big. A film’s success is measured by its influence and not just how it figured at the tills.

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