Entertainment

Kathryn-Alden movie sequel ‘Hello, Love, Again’ readied, seen to boost ABS-CBN, GMA earnings in 2024

By Isagani de Castro Jr., Rappler

 Good news for shareholders of GMA Network Corporation and ABS-CBN Corporation. 

A new movie project that may beat Rewind, the Philippines’ current highest grossing film, was formally announced on Sunday, May 19. 

Star Cinema and GMA Pictures, the film outfits of the two media conglomerates, announced their first-ever collaboration, the sequel to the 2019 box-office hit, Hello, Love, Goodbye. 

Star Cinema’s Hello, Love, Goodbye earned P839 million in ticket sales in 2019, and held the box-office king record for over four years until the tearjerker film of real-life couple Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera made Philippine movie history in January 2024. 

Kriz Gazmen, head of ABS-CBN Film Productions, made a bold prediction on Sunday. As he looked to GMA Films president Annette Gozon-Valdes, he said, “We’ve been talking of collaboration for more than two years now, this is just the beginning. And together, I’m claiming it: We’re going to make history again.” 

The number to beat? A worldwide gross of P922 million or nearly a billion for Rewind, a movie co-produced by Star Cinema with Dantes’ film outfit, Agostodos Pictures, and APT Entertainment. 

Hello, Love, Again has the key elements that the top two Philippine box-office films have: it’s a love story and it involves collaboration between the country’s top entertainment firms. It also stars the most bankable exclusive talents of the two conglomerates – Kathryn Bernardo for ABS-CBN and Alden Richards for GMA. 

Why the optimism when so many Philippine films, even among Hollywood movies, shown in the first quarter of 2024 appear to have bombed, based on limited patronage in most theaters?

Gazmen told Rappler on Sunday it’s because of the sequel’s two lead stars. 

“Ang hirap kasi ‘pag nagbi-build ka ng movie star. Kasi there are artists na okay for television, okay for streaming, pero ‘pag sinabi kasi nating movie star, sino ‘yung artista willing bayaran ng tao ng presyo?” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping.” 

(It’s because it’s hard to build up a movie star nowadays. Because there are artists who are okay for television, okay for streaming, but when we say movie star, who is that artist that people are willing to pay to watch in theaters?)

Another reason for his optimism is the choice of November as the month for the release of the film. The film will begin showing in the Philippines on November 13, followed by an international release.

Gazmen said this is historically a strong month for ABS-CBN’s movie releases. This is when it’s close to Christmas when people in the Philippines may already have received their Christmas bonuses, and it’s a receptive month in the international film market. Hello, Love, Again is another movie about the Filipino diaspora, and the producers hope that Filipinos overseas will again watch in droves.

“Mataas ang confidence namin sa Hello, Love, Again (Our confidence is high for Hello, Love, Again, even if it’s a regular playdate,” he said. 

Among Star Cinema’s movies about overseas Filipinos are Anak, Barcelona: A Love Untold, Caregiver, Dubai, In The Name of Love, and Milan. Star Cinema said these films tell “heartwarming stories of Filipinos and shedding light on the realities of Filipinos living and working abroad.” 

Rewind was a key contributor to ABS-CBN’s improved earnings from content production and distribution in the first three months of 2024. 

The Lopez-led company reported P2.6 billion in revenues from content production and distribution in the first quarter of the year, an increase of P241 million or P10% more than the P2.38 billion revenues in the first quarter of 2023. 

“The company’s Film and Digital divisions delivered marked improvements in their businesses driven by an increase in box-office performance and enhancements in subscription and advertising revenues on its digital properties,” said ABS-CBN in its first quarter earnings report disclosed last May 15.

As for GMA, the movie Firefly which it released in the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival, helped increase the company’s consumer sales in the first quarter of the year. Sale of services went up from P210 million from the first quarter in 2023 to P225 million in the same period in 2024, a 7% increase.  

“…providing the boost this period for this revenue category were box-office receipts from movie production, particularly from the multi-awarded comeback film of GMA Pictures, Firely,” said GMA in its first quarter earnings report last April 16. Firefly won Best Picture in the 2023 MMFF, which set a festival box-office record of over a P1 billion.

Both companies need the box-office receipts from Hello Love Again. ABS-CBN still faces big debts to pay, while GMA’s consolidated revenues were down 9% in the first quarter of 2024, or from P4 billion to P3.6 billion year-on-year.

From Hong Kong to Canada

During the press conference on Sunday, Director Cathy Garcia-Sampana, who also helmed Hello, Love, Goodbye, said what excites her about the sequel is the new story that was inspired by Filipinos in Canada, where the film will be shot. 

“Tinutuloy lang natin ang kuwento but this is all about Filipinos living abroad,” she said. “Ibang-iba ang Hong Kong and Canada, which excites me kasi at least may bago kaming kuwento.” 

(We’re continuing the story but this is all about Filipinos living abroad. Hong Kong and Canada are very different, which excites me because at least, we’ll have a new story.)

The script, however, has yet to be finalized. 

Bernardo said that although she’s familiar with her Hello, Love, Goodbye character, Joy, it’s been five years since the movie was made.

“I’ve changed, I think we all did, lahat tayo nagbago (we’ve all changed). I’m just curious kung ano ‘yung mabibigay namin (what we can give) this time around. Because when we shot Hello, Love, Goodbye, I was just 23, and then now, I just turned 28 so ‘yung 5 years na ‘yon, ano ‘yung nangyari (in those five years, what happened to us) sa growth namin (to our growth) personally, and of course, kung ano naman yung magiging (what will be the) growth when it comes to Ethan and Joy. So, ang daming tinatantiya pa namin (so we’re still gauging a lot of things), but then, it’s an exciting feeling.

“When [ABS-CBN COO] Tita Cory [Vidanes] told me about this film, s’yempre natakot ako, kasi hindi ko alam (I was afraid of because I didn’t know), should we leave it as it is, or maybe gumawa na lang kami ng bagong kuwento ni Alden (should we make a completely new story about Alden and I) or better na ituloy s’ya (or better just continue the story). But then, nung pinag-isipan ko s’ya (when I thought about it), if I put myself aside of being part of the cast, parang me din (for me also), ang dami kong (I have a lot of) questions, ang dami kong gustong malaman, kumusta si Joy, is Ethan okay, (I want to know many things, how is Joy, is Ethan okay), nag-survive ba ‘yung LDR [long distance relationship] nila (did their LDR survive), kumusta ‘yung buhay niya sa Canada, nag-survive ba ‘yung dreams niya (how’s her life in Canada, did her dreams survive), so I think, for me, Hello, Love, Again will provide the answers to my question and to all your questions, hopefully, but this time naman, sa ibang (in a new) setting, in Canada,” she said.

Richards, a GMA Sparkle Artists Center talent, said he’s glad that they’ll be able to give what fans have been clamoring for. 

“The fans of the film really want to know what happens next…. The clamor is still there, ngayon lang talaga mas nabigyang bunga ‘yung paghingi nila ng (it’s only now that we’ve given fruition to what the fans want), part two for this film,” he said. 

A joint movie collaboration of this scale between the two competing companies would have been unthinkable prior to May 5, 2020, the day when ABS-CBN was ordered by the Duterte administration to shut down its broadcast operations after its franchise expired. The House of Representatives would then reject its new franchise application in July 2020.

After ABS-CBN lost its franchise, it was forced to lay off thousands of employees and has been in the red, while GMA became the dominant player in the broadcast industry. To survive, ABS-CBN has pivoted to being principally a content creator, distributing primarily its entertainment content not only to GMA, but also to tycoon Manny Pangilinan’s TV5, televangelist Eddie Villanueva’s A2Z, Manny Villar’s ALL TV, and various streaming platforms.

ABS-CBN’s partnership with GMA has also become stronger in the past two years, punctuated by a decision to co-produce ABS-CBN’s popular noon show, It’s Showtime, and air it on GMA’s two main channels, GMA 7 and GTV, starting last April 6.

GMA’s former president and CEO, Felipe Gozon, had announced an “end to the TV war” between the two companies in June 2023 when It’s Showtime moved from TV5 to GTV.

In April 2022, ABS-CBN and GMA signed a deal on the airing of ABS-CBN Star Cinema films such as It Takes a Man and A Woman and Hello, Love, Goodbye on GMA-7. 

In January 2023, GMA and ABS-CBN signed a co-production agreement for the teleserye Unbreak My Heart. It aired on various GMA channels and on streaming platforms, Viu, as well as ABS-CBN’s iWantTFC and The Filipino Channel.  

In April 2023, they agreed that GMA’s international channels Pinoy TV, GMA Life TV, and GMA News TV (now GTV), and select GMA on-demand programs would be made available on ABS-CBN’s streaming platform, iWantTFC, starting May 1, 2023. (Rappler.com

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