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From bestseller to blockbuster, ‘Diary ng Panget’ a surprise hit for Viva

James Reid and Nadine Lustre in 'Diary ng Panget'.

Viva Films’ big screen adaptation of the best-selling book series “Diary ng Panget” opened in theaters Wednesday and raked in an astounding P15 million, the studio announced on Thursday.

“Diary ng Panget” is now expected to gross at least P180 million by the end of its regular run, which is likely to extend from the usual two weeks to at least three.

Results like this are usually reserved only for movies with big-name stars from a TV network-backed film outfit like Star Cinema. It is completely unexpected from a teen-oriented film starring a bunch of mostly unknowns.

Among the four young leads of “Diary,” only James Reid, the Filipino-Australian winner of “Pinoy Big Brother” Teen Edition in 2010, has had some level of popularity.

The lead cast of 'Diary ng Panget': from left, Yassi Pressman, Andre Paras, Nadine Lustre and James Reid.

The rest of the cast, namely Nadine Lustre, Yassi Pressman, and Andre Paras (son of comedian and basketball legend Benjie Paras) have so far flown under the radar.

That will now change. The film, which has been graded “B” by the Cinema Evaluation Board, has brought instant fame to the four stars, especially among the fans of the “Diary” books that have proven to be a sizable market and, now, a force to be reckoned with beyond the publishing world, too.

“Diary ng Panget” was first published online in in 2011-2012 where it garnered over 12 million reads. It was published in the Philippines as a four-part paperback series last year. Each of the books went straight to number 1 on the local bestsellers list upon its release.

The story was written by an Italy-based teen-aged Filipina author named Denny who goes by the pen name HaveYouSeenThisGirl.

“We were completely surprised with the first day box-office result,” Viva executive Vincent del Rosario said. “Going into opening day we knew we had a potential hit but we totally did not expect it to blow out of the gate this big. We are extremely happy.”

Del Rosario says that a follow-up film for the tandem of Nadine and James — who play the roles of the fan-beloved teen couple of Eya and Cross in “Diary” — will now be fast-tracked. It will be another movie adaptation of a hit book, he noted, of which Viva has a long list to choose from.

Months after acquiring the movie rights to “Diary ng Panget” last year, Viva went into a partnership with “Diary” publisher PsiCom for a bunch of titles. These include other fan favorites such as “Talk Back and You’re Dead” and HaveYouSeenThisGirl’s “Voiceless.”

Viva is also set to begin production on two other movie adaptations of best-selling books — the college-set romance “Para sa Mga Hopeless Romantic” and Bob Ong’s 2011 hit “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin.” The latter, a stinging parody of Philippine mainstream movies and television, already has a stellar cast attached: Anne Curtis, Maricel Soriano, and Heart Evangelista.

This wave of books-to-movies from Viva Films was ushered in by the well-received film adaptation of Bob Ong’s “ABNKKBSNPLAko?!” which was shown in February.