Official Confident of Hollywood Ending in Foreign Film Boycott

The Jakarta Globe

Indonesia’s despair over the lack of Hollywood blockbusters on the big screen may be over soon, according to a tourism official.

Ukus Kuswara, the director general for culture, arts and film at the Ministry of Tourism, said the government and the Motion Picture Association had negotiated a “win-win solution.”

“Let’s just say it’s not about the tax figure, but the mechanism for its imposition. There’s a difference in perception but that’s been sorted out now,” he told AFP without elaborating.

The dispute centers on Indonesia’s new system of calculating and charging royalties on imported films, which the MPA said had “a detrimental impact on the cost of bringing a film into Indonesia.”

When asked to clarify, Ukus said the ministry wanted US box-office hits — which made up more than half of all movies screened in Indonesia before the boycott began in February — to return as soo n as possible, largely due to the detrimental impact the boycott has had on the cinema industry.

“I have been monitoring the films [being shown] and cinema visitors, and it’s sad to see theaters empty,” he said.

While the Directorate General of Customs and Excise has been resolute about implementing the new royalty computation, the Ministry of Tourism has always maintained that the government is open to negotiations with film importers.

Ukus said that while it was the government’s right to impose taxes and duties, “we need a way of determining import duties that everyone agrees to.”

“We will have one more meeting with the Ministry of Finance [on Monday] regarding the tax scheme,” he said. “Hopefully, in the next one or two weeks, importers can resume bringing in box-office hits to Indonesia.”

Since the MPA stopped distributing films to Indonesia, everyone has been losing except the sellers of pirated DVDs.

“Customers are looking for titles like ‘Fast Five,’ ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Thor’ because they can’t watch them in the cinema,” said Yani, who sells pirated DVDs. “They complain my videos are low quality and they wouldn’t watch them if they had a choice. But I can’t complain, business is good.”

She said sales had jumped 50 percent since the MPA boycott.

Cinemas, which have been trying to fill the gap with local fare and B-grade foreign films dug out of the rejects bin, are almost empty.

Djonny Sjafruddin, the head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), which represents 240 cinemas nationwide, had earlier said that the foreign film distribution boycott had caused a 60 percent drop in the local cinema industry’s income nationwide.

Worse may be yet to come, with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” also likely to be axed, Djonny added.

But if the issue is indeed resolved in the next one or two weeks, as Usuk said, Potter fans might not have to fly to Singapore to see the much-awaited conclusion of the blockbuster series.

Additional reporting by AFP

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