By September 15, the film, Heneral Luna, was scheduled to be pulled out of cinemas. Like other Filipino movies, it had its week and movie houses were set to replace it with more profitable Hollywood flicks like Cooties, Green Inferno, and Hotel Transylvania 2.
Luna didn't close.
Movie distribution was more than halved. From 101 cinemas, only 40 still played the film. But by the following weekend, it was back up to 70 – then 104 more than before. More than a week later, Jerrold Tarog's Heneral Luna is still in theaters nationwide.
No one can deny that Luna doesn't deserve this treatment. It is a thought-provoking masterpiece that speaks eloquently about today's socio-political conditions – from the unnecessary martyrdom of the SAF 44 to self-serving interests in politics – through the lens of Antonio Luna's life and times.
But while it is a great Filipino film, its quality alone couldn't save it. Filipinos have been making great movies for a long time. Eddie Romero and Lino Brocka have committed outstanding works of art in film before the first Millenials were even born. Their legacy has been inherited by hundreds of directors and moviemakers. Unfortunately, few make it big in the Philippines. Many win awards, money, and critical acclaim in distant lands – Cannes, Toronto, Berlin. Never here.
That Heneral Luna escaped this fate is not a testament to its quality – but its cavalry.
It began quietly with the moviemakers and their friends and family – which spread quickly to aficionados and their friends – and their friends – and their friends. It became a viral storm with one goal:WATCH.
Luna's groundroots social media campaign worked. The beginning of its second week saw a higher gross than its first, even though it played in fewer cinemas. More than anything else, Luna's fans, banding together as a social media cavalry, saved the film.
While its supporters were not professionals, they used techniques that worked.
Call Attention with Striking Images
As a visual medium and a well-done movie, Heneral Luna could draw on many powerful stills. Combined with an urgent call to action, it pushed a lot of people to watch the film.
Grow Interest through Trivia
Aside from saying "it’s great" and "go watch", trivia about Antonio Luna, his history, and the film kindled people's curiosity, bringing another dimension of reasons to go to the cinemas.
Link to Authoritative Sources
Wise people don't trust everything they read in social media. Misinformation abounds. To make an effective case for the movie, Luna's cavalry posted articles and interviews from legitimate news sources.
A grassroots movement can't exist in a vacuum. It needs to know what's up – from disappointments and plans to small victories and bigger triumphs.
Raise Spirits with Humor
Positive posts are more likely to be shared on social media than any other type. And what is more positive than humor? The viral campaign made people happy, especially as the struggle bore fruit.
Creating a similar grassroots campaign would need to take advantage of all these features – a difficult proposition even for social media professionals. However, it’s not impossible.People can be turned into evangelists. But it will take an agency with social media and PR savvy to push all the right buttons and pull it off.
The film's viral social media campaign saved it. But let's not forget that social networks are just a tool. Behind every postand share is a person who believed in Heneral Luna's virtues. They banded together to raise the film above everyday chatter. And more importantly, they marched to where they needed to go.
Saving Heneral Luna is the Filipino cinemagoers victory.