One of my law school blockmates, together with his fraternity, bought a showdate for Ang Huling El Bimbo the Musical's first run last year. There were 5 shows for the first run and all 5 shows were sold out.
About a dozen of my blockmates saw the first run and they were so moved by the production that when rumors of a second run came up, they eagerly signed up to buy a showdate and sold the idea to the rest of us. I joined in a heartbeat because Eraserheads plus a first run that sold out? A show that will literally sell itself? Where do I sign up?! It seemed like an effortless way to get at least a 20% return on our investment.
Or so we thought.
Let me just jump to the end of the story and say that we did not lose any money in the endeavor but we didn't make 20% either. We made way, way below 20%, as in lower single digit level (cough2.5%cough). Also, getting to break-even took a tremendous effort on our part, but despite all of that, I would do it all over again.
I always thought that I could never sell anything, because I just don't have the personality and chutzpah to move products or ideas. However, the sight of hundreds of unsold seats and the thought of losing our Tokyo budget forced me to hustle like I've never hustled before. Pakapalan na ng mukha, in short.
But if I were to do it again, I would definitely think twice about buying a show from Resorts World because it did not effectively market the show leading up to the opening. In fact, I don't think it even marketed the show outside of the posters INSIDE Resorts World. I found this really surprising because isn't Resorts World famous/notorious for its radio ads? I mean that female voice whispering "Resorts World Manila" was all over the airwaves a few years back. It also has billboards all around the airport area, but I did not see a single billboard for Ang Huling El Bimbo. Yup, I'm still very disappointed about it.
In fairness though, the cast members had some radio and TV appearances a week or two before the first show opened and Full House Theater Company really made a valiant effort to market the show through social media, but this was clearly not enough or was a little too late, thus the first weekend did not break-even.
When it became clear that the show wasn't going to sell itself, as we all thought it would, and Resorts World wasn't going to help out, we had to do the selling ourselves, thus the roller coaster of emotions for the past few months. From the high of selling 10 tickets in a single day to getting seen-zoned dozens of times, I went through it all.
It really helped that my friends and I were together in this experience because I had someone to share my ups and downs with. This show became so much more than a mere investment that when our showdate closed to a standing ovation, I was probably as euphoric as the cast members. I had my heart wrenched out by the production and I couldn't stop humming Eheads songs for the next few days, but the overriding feeling was one of relief that it was finally over and I could go back to my humdrum life.
Now that my emotions have mellowed down and I can think things through rationally, my takeaways as a first-time showbuyer are as follows:
- Choose a show that you love or a concept that intrigues you, thus, it will be easier for you to sell it.
- Include the scope and timeline of marketing efforts by all parties in your contract.
- Unless the show is actually sold out by the time it opens, don't believe any claim that it will sell itself. Heck, even Phantom of the Opera and Lion King did not sell out all of their shows.
- Hustle and sell like you've never done before.
- Choose to work with people who will also hustle as hard as you.
Ultimately, it's just money and the piddling returns have not turned me off from going into a similar venture in the future because the experience obtained from this venture was well-worth the effort. However, it's highly unlikely that I will dip my toes into showbusiness in the near future because I still have to recuperate from the last show. Mahirap pala talaga magbenta.
If you haven't watched Ang Huling El Bimbo the Musical yet, I highly encourage that you do because despite the very sad ending (you have been warned!), the nostalgia factor alone is worth your time and money and the performances are just jaw-dropping. They've added another showdate so it will now run until April 12. Tickets are available at Ticketworld.