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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bars, malls cash in on 'Pacquiao-Hatton fever'

Can't fly to Las Vegas? Don’t have pay-per-view? Don't fret because a slew of establishments in Metro Manila and key cities have been offering special screenings (some of which are free) for the much-awaited fight between boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao and Britain's Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton.

The phenomenon has provided many restaurants, electronics companies, and power providers with brisk business this boxing season as many Filipinos again are expected to set their sights on the momentous fight, which is Pacquiao's follow-up after beating Oscar dela Hoya last December.

Several restaurants like Gerry's Grill and Forest Grill in Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City are offering promos for the Pacquiao-Hatton match and have reportedly sold out their tickets a full six days before the fight.

According to Gerry's Grill Tomas Morato branch manager Fernan Salvariz, tickets for the live screening have been sold out for all seven of its participating branches since Monday. For a P500 ticket, customers can watch the match on any of the restaurant's five LCD widescreen projectors, strategically placed near the mini-bar, main dining areas, and the posh VIP rooms upstairs. This also includes a free breakfast spread of grilled pork, "daing na bangus", scrambled eggs, and garlic rice.

Salvariz said they are expecting 300 people to come to their branch, and more walk-in customers who tend to appear on the day itself and haggle for seats. "To prevent fights from breaking out, we give them seat numbers so they know who is the priority," he said.

Salvariz added that restaurants like Gerry's Grill offer good ambiance and a steady stream of food and drinks, which give them their edge.

Some restaurants have even bought new TVs and projectors just to be able to offer Pacquiao-Hatton screening opportunities for die-hard boxing and Pacquiao fans, a fact that has made projector sales and rental companies happy.

"People are calling for reservations, but we can't give any so they are forced to buy projectors," said Wena Morales of an AVP products sales and rentals company.

Flock of the faithful

Meanwhile, crowds also flocked to SM Cinema ticket outlets nationwide to get tickets for big-screen live screenings of the Pacquiao-Hatton match at SM theaters.

"I am buying [tickets] before they get sold-out. I want to show my support to Pacquiao so I will watch," said one fan named Mos, who lined up at SM North EDSA to purchase a ticket worth P551.

Joy Aspillas, SM Marketing officer, said the company had started selling tickets for the fight screening as early as March up to April. Customers who bought on specific dates were given a free movie ticket which can be used for any film being exhibited at SM theaters.

"The customer's behavior when it comes to Pacquiao fights is when the date of the match comes nearer, that's when people start buying tickets," she said.

Aspillas added that, among 33 branches of SM Cinemas nationwide, about 88 theaters have already been sold out, amounting to an estimated 28,000 people. Ticket prices for various SM branches range from P500 to P550 or more.

"Ticket sales are really fast. Yesterday, we only sold out [seats for] 72 screens nationwide. Today, it jumped to 88," she said.

Although SM Cinemas do not offer food for their patrons, Aspillas said that the experience would surely make up for it. "Obviously people come here for the big screen because it's better. When you go to the [SM theater], it's like you're actually at the fight. It's more upbeat, and people are energetic and noisy. Also, compared to other exhibitors, we're relatively cheaper," she said in Filipino.

If some businesses make good profit, others stand to lose on May 3 during the live broadcast of the Pacquiao-Hatton match, a Bloomberg report said.

An article by Clarissa Batino of Bloomberg said the Catholic church is projecting less people to come to mass on Sunday morning, since they will most likely be holed up at home to watch the fight on cable television . Even fast food chain McDonald's is expecting a slight dip in customer traffic, but an increase in home deliveries.

Fight for a cause

Some organizations are also taking advantage of the big event to raise money for their causes. The Ateneo Alumni Association, which is selling P600 per ticket for a live screening of the fight at the Ateneo Grade School Auditorium, plans to turn over ticket sale proceeds to the Ateneo Scholarship Fund.

A stone's throw away at the Irwin Theater in the Ateneo Campus, the University of the Philippines Association of Biology Majors (UP ABM) are selling tickets at half the price (P300).

UP ABM treasurer JJ Sanchez said they came up with the event to raise funds for their missions and to revive their scholarship fund which has run out. He said that of 1,130 tickets they are planning to sell, about 600 have been sold.

In a similar trend to commercial establishments, Sanchez also expects more customers to purchase tickets on the day of the screening.

For those who cannot shell out cash, several free screenings will be held all over the country. In Pacquiao's hometown, General Santos City officials are reportedly giving away 8,000 free tickets for fans who want to watch at the General Santos Gym.

In Metro Manila, free screenings will be held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gymnasiums or military officer's club function rooms and all sports complexes around Metro Manila.

A mass of crowds are also expected to come for free screenings at the Baclaran, San Dionisio, San Antonio, and Marcelo covered courts in Paranaque; the San Juan Arena behind the Pinaglabanan Shrine; some covered courts and elementary schools in Muntinlupa; Valenzuela; and the Tatalon Basketball Court in Quezon City.


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