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Filipino Time-Traveling Romance ‘Rewind’ Is Box Office Smash & Reminder Of Cinema’s Emotional Power — Global Breakouts

Welcome to Global Breakouts, Deadline’s fortnightly strand in which we shine a spotlight on the TV shows and films killing it in their local territories. The industry is as globalized as it’s ever been, but breakout hits are appearing in pockets of the world all the time and it can be hard to keep track. So we’re going to do the hard work for you.

This week, we go to the Philippines and take a look at a time-traveling romance film. Rewind has has become the highest-grossing Filipino film in history, with audiences lapping up the fantasy and mystical elements of a failing marriage given a second chance by divine intervention.

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Name: Rewind
Country: The Philippines
Producer: ABS-CBN/Star Cinema, AgostoDos Pictures, APT Entertainment
International sales: Star Cinema
Distribution: Cinemas in Asia, Australia, Canada, U.S. (limited), Middle East
For fans of: A Change of Heart (Tanging Yaman), Classic Filipino family dramas

In Rewind, a divine intervention gives a second chance to a failing marriage between John (played by Dingdong Dantes) and Mary (Marian Rivera). Amid rising ticket prices, falling cinema-going numbers and the expansion of streaming in the Philippines, the romantic drama’s record-breaking success at the box office feels like an equally supernatural intervention.

At the end of January, we reported Rewind had become the first Filipino movie to cross $16M at the global box office, and the numbers keep growing. At last count this week, it had added another $500,000 to the bank. It has also broken local box office records and led to TikTok videos of fans weeping uncontrollably after viewing the movie. “I’m still trying to understand how that magic happened,” leading actor and executive producer Dantes tells Deadline.

Produced with a budget over $1M, the Mae Cruz Alviar-directed film is now more than two months into its theatrical run in the Philippines, was released in Hong Kong on February 18 and debuts in Cambodia this Friday (March 8). Rewind has a limited theatrical release in the U.S. and has already opened in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Guam.

Kriz Gazmen, Managing Director of Philippines-based production and distribution outfit Star Cinema, says a wider theatrical release in the U.S. could follow.

Rewind marks the first project in nearly a decade where real-life powerhouse couple Dantes and Rivera have acted together onscreen. They play a couple whose marriage is in tatters, only for the husband, John, to be given, through divine intervention, the chance to go back in time and make amends.

Dantes recalls how the pair met with the film’s screenwriter, Enrico Santos, at a Chinese restaurant in 2019 to hear about the project. Both immediately expressed excitement. “It was the perfect project for us because I really miss working with Marian, especially on the big screen,” says Dantes. “Performing with her was a treat. It was like going on dates for all those shooting days.”

Partnering ABS-CBN’s film arm Star Cinema and APT Entertainment, the couple also invested their own money in the film through AgostoDos Pictures, which Dantes founded in 2011. “Marian and I really put all our talent and products into projects that we believe in,” says Dantes, who is an executive producer on the film, on his financial decision. “We told ourselves that it would be nice to be part of something like this that will outlive us, so it wasn’t a very difficult decision for us to make.”

Gazmen says the film’s premise is key to the success “Who doesn’t want to be given the chance to be able to go back in time and try to rectify their mistakes,” he asks. “It’s a very emotional experience, but it’s introspective at the same time and it makes you question yourself if you’ve been a good person all along. For the Filipino audience, after the stress of the pandemic and the realization that our days on this earth are numbered, the film was a good cry that they might have held back all along.”

However, while Star Cinema is enjoying a remarkable success with Rewind, Gazmen admits that it is getting increasingly difficult to predict audiences and come up with box office winners in the Philippines. “We haven’t reached the level yet where box office results are more stable and it’s easier to at least break even on your investment,” he says.

ROI challenge

The return on investment for producers remains a significant challenge because inflation is making it more expensive now to produce films, Gazmen adds. Revenue streams are generally limited to box office takings and streaming, with box office sales still far from pre-pandemic numbers in the Philippines.

“We know that film has always been a hit or miss business,” he says. “But we take so many chances, hoping that we stumble upon that one hit. Once you do, it’s very rewarding — not just financially, but to our souls as creators, and that gets us going for the next chances we’re going to take.”

Dantes points out the importance of an event like the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in providing a protected window for the screening of domestic films. In the 2023 edition of the festival, where Rewind premiered, the festival expanded to showcase 10 domestic films, up from its usual eight.

During the festival’s run from December 25 to January 14, 2024, no non-festival film, whether local or foreign, are allowed to be screened in theaters across Manila (with the exception of IMAX and 4D theaters). Higher cinema-going rates can also be attributed to the festival beginning on Christmas Day and running through the new year, where people have more time during the holidays and spending power from end-of-year bonuses.

Elaborating about the importance of MMFF to Rewind‘s momentum, Dantes says: “The whole industry was just really excited to come together to promote all the films and uplift each other, so it was really more of an industry movement. Then the viewers just took their chance in whatever they’re interested in terms of genre and we’re just grateful that they picked our movie and really supported us.”

Gazmen says: “We have a healthy film community in the Philippines, with big studios and smaller production houses collaborating on a lot of films. With the demand for films by streaming platforms such as Netflix and Prime Video, there is a considerable number of films being produced at any given time.

“However, local box office results are still erratic, so there aren’t many big movies, in terms of budget and casting, that are being produced. Right now, there seems to be more confidence to show movies in theaters when they are part of the Metro Manila Film Festival.”

Dantes emphasizes the need to create a “cinematic experience” to attract people to theaters. “Because of the current ticket prices, sometimes even traffic, when you spend time to go out and exert effort to watch a film, it really has to be worth it. That’s really a challenge for us because we always have to make sure that our movies are worth it.”

Luckily for him, audiences have agreed Rewind provides that experience in spades.

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