While film lovers have been missing catching Hollywood blockbusters on the big screen, cinemas have been missing something more substantial: profit.
Djonny Sjafruddin, the head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), said the foreign film distribution boycott in the country had caused a 60 percent drop in the local industry’s income nationwide.
“Since the Motion Picture Association stopped exporting their films to Indonesia, we, the cinema industry, have begun feeling the effect, especially in small towns such as in Central Java,” Djonny said.
The boycott that began on Feb. 17 was sparked by disagreement over a new royalty tax computation the government wanted to impose but that the MPA said would have a “significant detrimental impact on the cost of bringing a film into Indonesia.”
The government had promised a resolution by the end of March, but talks apparently still haven’t concluded as major releases like “Thor” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” aren’t being shown here.
Syamsul Lussa, the director of films at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, could not be reached for comment on when Indonesia could expect a resolution to the issue as he was attending the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
To cope with the diminished source of movies to screen, Djonny said cinemas had been making do with second-class foreign films and previously run movies as daily screenings are cut.
“The tax-scheme controversy is slowly killing the Indonesian cinema industry, while the government wants to add more screens across the nation,” he said. “But if there is no film, what will be screened in the new screens? Indonesian films have not really been able to attract the market.”
“Maybe 15 to 20 percent of Indonesian films can attract audiences, such as ‘Tanda Tanya’ by Hanung,” he said. “But other than that, does the audience really want to watch films with the same ghost concept all the time? I guess not, because the audiences are not stupid.”
Dian Sunardi, the head of marketing at BlitzMegaplex cinemas, testified to the decreased audience-drawing power of the films they had been showing.
“We still receive some film stock from major studios, including from Hollywood through other distributors,” Dian said. “However, the number of visitors has dropped 15 percent to 20 percent compared with last year.”
Even the Jakarta administration is feeling the impact.
“So far, cinemas have contributed 20 percent of the Rp 81 billion ($9.5 million) in entertainment tax collected for the first quarter of the year,” said Iwan Setiawandi, the head of Jakarta Tax Office. “But in previous years, cinemas have contributed as much as 40 percent to 50 percent of the Rp 350 billion entertainment tax collected annually in Jakarta.”
Industry representatives and moviegoers like Herda Aprillia, a member of the Indo Harry Potter online fan community, can only hope the matter is resolved soon. “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2” — the last installment in the hugely popular series — is due to be released in July.
“I am actually staunchly against pirated films. But what else can you do? I am not going to wait until the DVD is [officially] released or fly to Singapore only to watch the film,” Herda said.