Cinema screens across the country may soon have little to show except local movies if a new threat by American film producers to boycott exports to Indonesia is carried out.
The warning has come from the Motion Picture Association, the international counterpart of the Motion Picture Association of America, which has apparently been angered by a proposed levy slapped on imported films.
Freelance film reviewer Bobby Batara told the Jakarta Globe that Frank Rittman, MPA’s vice president for the Asia Pacific, aired the warning after a preview screening for journalists on Thursday of the Oscar-nominated US film “Black Swan.”
Bobby, who attended the event, said Rittman had complained about a new tax that would soon be applied by Indonesia’s customs office.
Rittman was quoted by a number of journalists at the screening as saying that the new government regulation on film importation could force big American studios to stop sending movies to Indonesian cinemas.
MPA representatives could not be reached for confirmation.
Titis Sapto Raharjo, editor in chief of Flick Online Magazine, a film review site, was also at the screening and said the rumor was that the government planned to impose a levy of 43 cents per meter of film imported.
Government officials involved in the matter declined to confirm the figure, saying only that talks were still ongoing.
Syamsul Lussa, a representative from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said he did not want to comment because the levy had not been finalized yet. “We will discuss it with the tax and customs directorate as there is a high demand for imported films in Indonesia,” he told the Globe.
Bambang Permadi Brodjonegoro, head of fiscal policy at the Ministry of Finance, said the details had not been finalized because negotiations with the MPA were still ongoing.
“I can’t provide any details until it has been discussed at the fiscal policy body. Please wait until next week,” he said in a message to the Globe. “It’s better to wait until after we have met with [officials from] customs and duties.”
Titis criticized the MPA for bringing up the issue before talks had been completed. “This is an internal discussion between the government and the MPA,” he said. “Therefore, it is very important that Frank not bring this case up to the public.”
Nauval Yazid, manager of the annual Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest), said if the threat were carried out, it would deal a significant blow to cinemas and filmgoers across the country.
“Stopping film exports to Indonesia would affect many people,” he said. “Besides, the Indonesian film industry is grappling with piracy, which cannot be stopped. It’s very important that the MPA discuss and resolve this problem with customs.”
Members of the MPA include some of the biggest studios in the United States, including Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Indonesia’s film industry has suffered a downturn in recent years. In 2009, six local films sold more than a million tickets each at the box office. In 2010, only one movie broke the million mark.
Last year, 81 Indonesian films had cinema releases, slightly down from 83 films in 2009, although a significant decline from 91 big-screen releases in 2008.