Not Coming Soon to a Screen Near You

Posted: May 23, 2011 in News

By : Lynn Lee – Straits Times Indonesia | May 23, 2011

Going to the movies has traditionally been an exciting ritual for Chitra Anggraini.

The 25-year-old animatedly describes settling back into plush seats and digging into a tub of warm popcorn for a visual feast for two to three hours. But in the last few months, her visits to Jakarta’s modern screens have been taxing.

A stand-off between the government and film importers – over back taxes – has kept new films from six big Hollywood studios, such as the latest Pirates of the Caribbean flick, off the country’s 700-plus screens for four months.

‘Each time I step into the cinema, there’s nothing I want to watch,’ said the freelance designer. ‘The movies that are showing are mostly Indonesian and usually about ghosts. I’m not going to pay for lame movies even though I do enjoy the cinema experience.’

Chitra’s complaint echoes that of Indonesian movie-goers, especially the rising middle class who can afford the ticket prices of between 25,000 rupiah ($2.9) and 50,000 rupiah a pop.

Earlier this year, the Tax Department – which is in the process of being cleaned up after a former mid-ranking official’s high-profile embezzlement scandal last year – sent three film distributors an invoice for 310 billion rupiah. This was for unpaid taxes including Customs duty on the value of each roll of film, and a fine for late payment. All three distributors are linked to the largest cinema operator Group 21 cineplex, which owns around 520 screens.

One of the three – which brings in mostly independent flicks – paid up last week. But the other two – which distribute Hollywood blockbusters – have not budged. Last Wednesday, Widhi Hartono, the head of audits at the Customs Office, urged them to follow suit. It was the only way for films to return to movie screens, he said.

The distributors, however, are harping on another issue. They claim the taxman’s recent enforcement of a long-neglected rule that requires royalties on the film to be paid upfront along with the Customs duty is uncommon in the industry and, thus, unfair.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the six big Hollywood studios, is backing them and has agreed with the distributors that no more films should be imported into Indonesia until the rule is removed. But the talk is that the Indonesian government will back down – if the back taxes are paid up.

Somewhat caught in the middle, it seems, is the second-largest cinema operator Blitz, which has around 70 screens. Blitz started five years ago, breaking Group 21’s near-monopoly of the market with swanky cinemas and a suite of savvy offerings to customers. One of these is a membership card which can be used for online ticket purchases and discounts at restaurants.

Ananda Siregar, Blitz’s boss, said there had been a discernible drop in business now that his supply of Hollywood movies had been cut off. He has closed some screens in Jakarta and Bandung on a rolling basis to cut costs.

‘Those who are getting a windfall now are DVD pirates and cinemas in neighboring countries,’ he said, adding that he believed some Indonesians would go to Singapore to watch movies.

Djonny Syafruddin, of the Association of Cinema Owners, said the revenue of his members – including independent cinemas – had dropped by half.

‘Another two months like this and the small cinemas will have to close down,’ he said. Cinema owners would miss out on a good money-making opportunity if the stand-off was not resolved before the June school holidays, he added.

Meanwhile, movie-goers such as Chitra are keeping their fingers crossed that the stand-off will end soon. She said she was unlikely to travel overseas just to watch a movie even though the thought had crossed her mind.

‘It would be a bit weird to fly there just for a movie,’ she said. ‘But I suppose that if this situation gets any worse, then it seems entirely possible for people to head overseas for that purpose and then spend an entire weekend there.’

(Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia.)

The original article can be found here :

  1. Ferdi says:

    I am a movie buff and I love watching movies in cinema intead of DVD or on TV. Yes, this situation has forced me to travel to Singapore just to watch movies. As silly as it may sound, but it’s worth it. This country needs to learn to be a clean country – companies to comply in paying taxes, government to implement rules that benefits all aspects, etc. This stituation makes the cinema industry fall, local movies also fall, people spend their money abroad and not to our own country ONLY for movies, etc. Look at how many people suffer, not only the movie-goers but also the employees of cinemas. Get rid of your pride and start to act RIGHT!

    • I understand your feelings Ferdi. I love watching movies in the big screen too. Watching it on DVD or TV just doesn’t give the same thrill. I almost do the same thing, but I think I can wait until the official DVD comes out. It’s not silly at all, believe me. Because most movie lovers like us would want to do anything for something we like / believe in.

      Totally agree on the country. Even though we can’t do much for our country, we can at least help the industry we love so much by joining @imcaction on twitter. The more followers we have, the more our voice will be heard. The more we grow, the more we can be a force to be reckoned with. At the very least, foreigners will notice and intrigued to find out more about the case. So please, join us and start taking Action!

  2. Hendri says:

    I think there’s nothing to be worried as there are other movies from Independent company. So watch out moviegoers, you can still watch the following movies:
    Blitz (Jason Statham), Conan The Barbarian 3D, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Darkest Hour, Hoodwinked Too, Abduction (Taylor Lautner), Warrior (Tom Hardy), Scream 4, Spy Kids 4, Piranha 3DD, Insidious, etc. Cool, right? So, no worries man! Stay positive!

  3. edward says:

    i am following every recent posts by “gerakan 1000000 orang butuh film bermutu di bioskop” in fb, –bcoz they always appear on the news feed everytime you open the fb–,,. the posts are showing how the government people and any well known directors, stars, and also public figures would react about this policy. well, i’m bored…. because the only thing they did was only blaming every department that is involved in it, serious actions are not even taken by the government –well i see only a bunch of low budget movies were allowed to play in theater– but all i heard from the news articles is just a bullshit, the government people are absolutely full of crap, and that’s why i don’t believe every single word from them, whether they are agreed with us, or even make things worse, i dont care at all,,. but i’m sure of what they’re doing, it is just another “Gayus-man” attempt.

    • I was really hoping and rooting for Gerakan 1 Juta to make a difference. They have more supports and I really do hope they can start getting the international world’s attention, coz that’s the only we can resolve this crisis asap. In my opinion, that’s what real Action is all about. And that’s also what I’m gathering people for at @imcaction in twitter. Merely gathering supporters and commenting won’t change a thing, that’s for sure. Even if they gather 10 million people, our voice would never reach out those deaf government officials.

      That’s why, please if you know any link or info about foreign tax, business, trades or law experts, we should let them know about this crisis and ask them to solve it. To get noticed and be a force that everyone can look up to, we need more followers and supporters.

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