Filipino local pix pick up pace

'Begin' first local pic to top B.O. this year

MANILA — After the success of Star Cinema horror pic “Feng Shui” at the local box office late last year, GMA Films’ romance “Let the Love Begin” has become the first Filipino film of the year to top the B.O., ahead of several foreign films in its opening week.

Directed by Mac Alejandre, pic stars Richard Gutierrez and Angel Locsin — the two young leads of TV’s No. 1 hit “fanta-series” “Mulawin” on the GMA network — and grossed P11 million ($200,000) on its first day and $727,272 after three days.

It knocked both foreign pics and Star Cinema’s competitive Valentine offering “Dream Boy” off the charts.

Pic’s performance has put GMA Films, which had produced successful projects such as “Rizal” and “Muro Ami,” back in the spotlight after a few years in hiatus.

The Filipino film industry has sported some impressive achievements lately, with titles such as “Magnifico,” “Crying Ladies” and docu “Imelda” winning awards both locally and abroad.

GMA Films, owned by the GMA TV network, is in tight competition with the ABS-CBN network, producer of another recent romance, “Dream Boy.”

Both pics are teen love stories starring familiar TV actors. GMA boldly decided to open “Let the Love Begin” on Feb. 9, the same day as ABS-CBN opened “Dream Boy,” according to GMA’s Wilma Galvante.

Intensified promotional activities, lots of TV spots and guest appearances on TV and at malls helped the GMA pic top “Dream Boy” at the local wickets.

While the local pic opened against mostly flop foreign pics, it faces tougher competition in its second week against the likes of “Constantine.” It didn’t help matters that the owners of ABS-CBN blocked “Let the Love Begin” from playing in cinemas they own. But for Valentine’s weekend, at least, “Love” was definitely in the air.

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