In the last few years, the Rom-Com has been the go-to genre of local film producers because of its consistent commercial success. Nearly half of the highest-grossing Filipino films of all-time are rom coms, amounting to an estimated total of PhP 4.2B in gross ticket sales. In 2015, half of the finalists in the Metro Manila Film Festival were rom coms; three of which were part of the top four grossing films. In last year’s MMFF, Vince & Kath & James, the Rom-Com film produced by Star Cinema, was the festival’s top-grossing film. With this big of a commercial success, it’s no wonder why major film companies consider rom-coms as their cash cow.
But if we try to think about it, what is it with Rom-Coms that make it such a big hit? Is it really because we’re suckers for love stories with tinges of comedy? I do agree to this to some extent but I feel there are far more practical, business-driven even, reasons for it. Here are four possible reasons why it is and will remain the film to make:
1. It's The Proper Genre For Love Teams
The truth is, the current local entertainment industry is supported by love teams. Almost all of our established local stars had, at least in one point in their careers, been part of a love team. There’s just something with seeing two beautiful people falling for each other on the big screen that clicks with most Filipinos. Hence, love teams became the most effective way to build a budding star’s fanbase.
The Rom Com was basically designed for this as it lets the love story be the focal point of the movie. With the action genre, writers have to develop the good guys vs. bad guys storyline. With horror, writers have to develop the central mystery. A straight-up romance movie can work but it will lack the flair of having comedic elements. It will also miss the opportunity of showcasing a talent’s acting flexibility.
2. It's Comfortable
I’m not talking about comfort because it reassures people of finding their true love. I’m talking about how audiences can also derive comfort from having a well-known and safe, arguably formulaic, structure. Rom Coms have a structure that audiences can easily follow:
- Two people meet
- They become sweet
- They break up
- Then make up (often with a grand gesture)
This structure guides audiences how to react to the film. They know which points to laugh and when to cry. Which characters to root for and which characters to dislike. This unspoken script creates an air of comfort that assures audiences that they are being entertained.
3. It's Value For Money
We like the feeling of getting more than what we pay for. (thanks Kris Aquino!) And with tickets costing at least PhP 180, watching a movie isn’t cheap. Consider also having to compete with piracy. Filmmakers must then make a compelling argument to persuade potential audiences to avoid pirates, go to a cinema and cough up money for a ticket.
Creating and marketing a movie as a Romance-Comedy gives the idea of enjoying two genres for a price of one. We love our “packaged deals” and “2 or 3-in-1” products. We don’t care much about the quality of each element is in the final product as long as we have the feeling that we get more quantity from it.
4. It's Less Costly To Produce
The most practical of all reasons. Rom-Coms are cheap and quick to produce. Since the selling point of the Rom-Com is the love story and the featured love team, there isn’t much need for special effects or CGI. These have immense implications of course on budget and production time. Not to mention, if the Rom-Com becomes a hit, it would have a better return of investment.
Take John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo’s A Second Chance as an example. It took less than a year to produce but eventually earned PhP 556 Million. Vice Ganda and Coco Martin’s Super Parental Guardians, took three months to produce but earned PhP 590 Million—the highest earning Filipino movie of all-time.
In contrast, Heneral Luna, an ambitious and socially-relevant film, is a part of the list of all-time grossing Filipino films but it took years to produce and had a budget of PhP 80 million. Saving Sally, the artistically ambitious rom-com that mixed animation with live-action was part of MMFF 2016, took 10 – 12 years before it was screened. Producers cited production and funding problems as reasons for the delay. It eventually ranked 5th in sales figures in the festival at PhP 27 million.
I do love Rom-Coms with all my heart. They’re entertaining and easy to digest. However, it is alarming that the big companies mostly see it as a genre to exploit to maximize their gains. I just hope these companies would eventually grow the balls and experiment more. Mahiya sila sa mga indie film companies.