Indonesians clamoring for new Hollywood movies must head overseas
Indonesia’s box office sales are down 60 percent since US movie studios stopped shipping new Hollywood hits because of high import taxes.
As Hollywood rolls out its biggest movies for the summer, film fans in Indonesia are so frustrated they're booking flights to neighboring countries to catch the newest blockbusters.Skip to next paragraph
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Indonesia has plenty of cinema screens – more than 600 nationwide. But a bitter dispute about import taxes on Hollywood films has led to a drought of new titles. Theaters have seen a sharp drop in ticket sales as moviegoers take a pass on second-run, local, and independent films. Indonesia’s box office is down by around 60 percent since February, when US studios suspended distribution, according to an industry association.
For Rusli "Sly" Eddy, a film buff in Jakarta, watching a pirated DVD or download isn’t a substitute for a big-screen experience. So he visits cinemas when he’s on overseas business trips and spends weekends in Singapore, about a 90-minute flight away. To make the most of these visits, he and other film fans squeeze in three or more movies a day, loading up on the newest imports.
“Obviously it’s devastating, especially during the summer season. You want to see your favorite blockbusters on the big screen and we can’t do it here,” says Mr. Eddy, who runs an annual fantasy film festival in Jakarta.
Golden Village, a theater chain in Singapore, has introduced a promotional offer specifically for visiting Indonesians, with a free pass for every eight films seen. Moviegoers must show their passport and boarding pass to qualify for the offer.
Indonesians are also traveling to Malaysia and Thailand to watch films, says Eddy. But many more are resorting to pirated DVDs, which are sold freely in Indonesia for a few dollars, often before they show up in theaters.
Room for movie-going hope?
A glimmer of hope for movie fans emerged earlier this week when Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance said it would revise import duty on foreign films in response to complaints from distributors. Hollywood studios have objected to a royalty-based tax on films, arguing that it was unfair and at odds with international practice. The revised tariff is based on the length of the imported film.