One foreign film importer has been cleared to bring movies into Indonesia after reportedly paying the government Rp 9 billion ($1.05 million) in back taxes, but it’s not time for film lovers to rejoice yet.
Agung Kuswandono, the director general of customs, said on Wednesday that the importer, which was not named, had resumed bringing in foreign titles, raising hopes that the country’s cinemas would soon be flush with Hollywood blockbusters. But these hopes were quickly dashed.
“The importer whose problem has been solved is an importer of foreign independent films, not an MPAA film importer,” said Syamsul Lussa, the director of films at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, referring to the Motion Pictures Association of America.
Films from MPAA, which includes Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment, have not been shown in the country since Feb. 17, when the studios decided that new local import regulations had “a detrimental impact on the cost of bringing a film into Indonesia.”
Syamsul said talks were continuing over this issue, which centers on how royalties are calculated and charged. “Hopefully, MPAA films can be brought into Indonesia again,” he said.
The film importer that paid Rp 9 billion in back taxes was one of three that the government said owed a collective Rp 31 billion in unpaid royalties from the past two years. “Those three importers are big ones, they rule 90 to 95 percent of total market,” Agung said, declining to identify the companies.
According to Widhi Hartono, head of audits at the customs office, all three importers have filed appeals with the tax court against the government demand for them to pay. “But because one of them paid their import duty while the appeal is ongoing, that importer is allowed to import films,” he said.
Djonny Sjafruddin, the head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), said this should still be greeted as good news.
“Although they have only been able to bring in second-class foreign films, which cannot really be sold to the market because they are independent American films, this is better than there being no foreign films in Indonesia cinemas,” he said.
Djonny had earlier said that the foreign film distribution boycott had caused a 60 percent drop in the local cinema industry’s income nationwide. He said theaters had been making do with second-class foreign films and previously run movies as daily screenings are cut.
Djonny said a company that specialized in non-MPAA films had movies ready to be screened in local cinemas.
“There are three foreign films that have been imported by Amero Mitra Film and ready to be screened,” he said. “However, we do not know yet whether the audience will like them.”
Two of the three films, “The Lost Bladesman,” a Hong Kong historical martial-arts film, and “Source Code,” which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, are now screening in Jakarta cinemas.
Additional reporting by Dion Bisara