We want our movies back!

A friend of mine came to Singapore the other day and during her trip here, she makes the best of her time to watch Hollywood movies that is currently playing in the cinemas. “It has been a while”, she said, commenting that there are no new Hollywood movies that are playing in the cinemas back home in Jakarta. Perhaps the last time a Hollywood movie came out was in February. Preposterous! How can it be that there are no foreign movies playing in Indonesia? What happened? Whom do we complain to if we want the movies back in our cinemas?

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A friend of mine came to Singapore the other day and during her trip here, she makes the best of her time to watch Hollywood movies that is currently playing in the cinemas. “It has been a while”, she said, commenting that there are no new Hollywood movies that are playing in the cinemas back home in Jakarta. Perhaps the last time a Hollywood movie came out was in February. Preposterous! How can it be that there are no foreign movies playing in Indonesia? What happened? Whom do we complain to if we want the movies back in our cinemas?

It turns out that the bottleneck to this problem was the new tax policy on film imports in Indonesia. I made out a cheeky diagram to see what’s causing the commotion and the related cause and effects here:

What happened to our foreign movies?

The above diagram is just out of my own quick analysis, based on news articles and the existing film industry regulation in Indonesia. I haven’t gone through all the details, so I welcome comments and corrections.

True, what the government is doing is only to implement what has been long due, that the royalties and the physical reels of celluloid on imported films are taxable. The importers owed the government Rp 31 billion ($3.6 million) in back taxes for the past two years’ worth of imports, which is now in the process of the tax tribunal. In the meantime, the importers decided to stop importing the movies. Alas, the poor consumers are left with no movies to watch, seeing that their much awaited summer box-office hits such as Harry Potter, Pirates in the Caribbean, etc., are being held in hostage.

Wait, don’t consumers have domestic movies? Oh, you mean movies such as Pocong Mandi Goyang Pinggul, Suster Keramas 2, and Kuntilanak Kesurupan? Really?

To be fair, not all domestic movies are filled with pseudo-porn-horror content, but this is what sells in the market. If it’s profitable, then producers will continue making it. I’m puzzled why they are released in the first place, doesn’t the film censorship board do anything?

If you want to support the development of the domestic film industry, there are other ways of doing it other than taxes. For example, how many film schools are in Indonesia anyway? What about copyright protection, so that domestic movies are not being pirated in their own country? The movie industry is a creative industry, thus protection of these creations are needed to proliferate better quality movies in the long run.

Although the cause of this problem might be related to the tax policy on film imports, I would like to argue that the conundrum also lies in Indonesia’s current structure of film import and distribution.

The three main film importers belong to Group 21 and they control the local distribution rights of Hollywood movies to their own chain of cinemas, Cineplex 21. They have long dominated the film import and distribution business, mostly when it was facilitated during the era of Soeharto. Even with the entry of Blitz Megaplex in 2006, who also buy the films from Group 21, they are still dominant. In 2009, Blitz filed a case to the Competition Commission (KPPU) but it was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

If only the competition in the film import and distribution were fairer, I believe we would have more access to good movies, both from foreign and domestic sources. At the time of this blog post being written, I have yet to find a Ministerial Regulation (from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism) on film distribution. It was mandated by the 2009 Film Law but the regulation is nowhere to be seen.

It would be naive to think that the cost of this stalemate is only about the disappointment of movie fans. I can list down a couple of impacts of this issue:

  • What about the livelihoods of employees in the cinema business?
  • What about the malls and restaurants that complements the cinema business?
  • Wouldn’t the government get less revenue out of this whole mess?
  • Wouldn’t the demand for pirated DVDs increase because of this? Ergo, even lesser revenue to the government?

As you can see, the longer the government and the importers delay on this issue, it will only get costlier. Therefore, it is wise for them to act promptly, and for us consumers to demand our rights: we want our movies back!

11 thoughts on “We want our movies back!”

  1. furthermore, sekarang produser2 film mulai pake strategi baru : make bintang2 porno luar negeri.. spertinya udah ada 3 film yg kyk gini.. ngeri gw..

    nb : “pseudo-porn horror movies” -> haha, good one fik..

  2. buat gue, ada plus-minus nya:

    plus:
    1. the government listens. kenapa? karena awalnya dipicu oleh keluhan sutradara hanung bramantyo mengenai tingginya pajak film domestik yang kemudian didengar dan ditindaklanjuti presiden.
    2. pajak film domestik jadi lebih rendah. pajak bahan impor untuk bikin film yang sebelumnya bisa 40% (karena terhitung barang mewah) jadi nol persen. pun PPN dari 10% jadi nol persen. jadi lebih ringanlah ongkos produksi kawan2 kita di industri perfilman lokal.

    minusnya:
    1. Motion Picture Association (MPA) selaku distributor asing ngambek. iya, karena PPh jadi 20% atas penghasilan yang dibayarkan importir ke luar negeri terkait penggunaan hak cipta atas film impor dan masuknya komponen harga royalti film impor sbg dasar penghitungan PPN (sebelumnya hanya berdasarkan panjang pita film).
    2. IMHO ini mungkin bisa masuk kategori proteksionisme film lokal. karena ya itu tadi, tujuannya utk meningkatkan daya saing film lokal terhadap film impor. at what cost? memanjakan produsen film lokal dan mengorbankan kepuasan konsumen. sadar ada pesaing2 asing aja, kualitas film lokal on average masih poor sekali (walopun beberapa ada laah yang memang ok, dan syukurnya masih menang piala Citra) apalagi dibuai dengan pajak nol persen begini? *btw, ngeri deh bayangin kalo krisis film berkepanjangan ini bisa berdampak film2 pseudo-porn-horror itu bisa menang piala Citra suatu hari*

    jadi harus gimana dong?
    1. produsen film lokal: jangan manja deh.. udah dikasih keringanan kan sekarang? jadi harusnya terpacu untuk bikin film2 lokal yang berkualitas tinggi. (awalnya dari keluhan mereka sendiri, kan? yang sekaliber Hanung, Riza, etc gw yakin tambah semangat, tapi yang biasa ikut selera pasar doang… ayo dong, lebih inovatif lagi!)
    2. pemerintah coba untangled monopoli supply chain film asing dong. pun kalau bisa ditinjau lagi apakah pajak atas royalti itu kemahalan atau tidak. apa pentingnya film asing tetap masuk? karena competition encourages innovation.
    3. distributor asing: it’s purely business matter, mau berbisnis di Indonesia atau tidak. kalau bagi mereka pasar kita tidak menguntungkan ya mungkin memang lebih baik stop dulu sembari lihat perkembangan selanjutnya.
    4. konsumen: your taste drives the market. kasih sinyal yang bener ke produsen film. mau film2 indonesia yang bagus meningkat jumlahnya? jangan tonton film2 yang dianggap gak bermutu DAN angkat suara untuk menuntut perbaikan kualitas film nasional. supply ada karena demand kan? think about it!

  3. just to add as well, i know for a fact that some of my friends willingly to fly to Singapore just to watch most anticipated hollywood blockbusters (eg. fast furious, harry potter, etc).

    This will add another value for Singapore if they wish to promote their country into ours, in addition to shopping spree and universal studio.

    please comment to disagree 🙂

    1. Singapore should thank the government of Indonesia that out of this mess it might actually increase the number of Indonesian tourists to Singapore. Flights to Singapore from Jakarta are so cheap nowadays, it is not a surprise if suddenly people from Jakarta come to Singapore over the weekends just to watch movies.

      Sad, isn’t it?

      To think that if the main purpose was to raise revenue out of taxing movie imports, this policy has actually backlashed. Of course, the actions of the importers should also be questioned, where did all the royalties and taxes go for two years? Another Gayus in the system?

  4. So freaking lame. I won’t be returning back to Indonesia for as a form of remonstration against this. This is utterly erroneous. Who the hell doesn’t watch Harry Potter these days?

  5. dear government or should i say government dear,
    dear importers or should i say ‘please pay the debts, it is about time you make up all the profits that piles up in your pockets, importers……..

    there are bunch of good reasons why hollywood becomes the world standard of good movies, there are million facts about actors and actresses of hollywood movies set up the high class acting.

    much better than doing that useless study trip to watch belly dance in turkey, or watching porn at important meeting in parliament, please bring back those high qualities movies to our land. then you guys can learn some lessons about dedication and work ethics from the movies that are made by higher level of homo sapiens who live in the hollywood lands. and for god sakes, do not corrupt the taxes, don’t you guys get enough?????

    last thing, do u guys really mean it? raising your kids in between that “1000 various pocong movies”, seriously????…..well, sorry check me out of it. you hear me, i will never NEVER walk around the cinema buildings again until YOU BRING BACK REAL MOVIES TO OUR LAND, I MEAN REAL MOVIES.

  6. the last time I saw Hollywood movie was No Strings Attached. Soon after that, kaput… no more worthy movies available. What the hell is this? I am a movie addict, and I can only complain right now. Give me back my movie. If government really wants to entertain the common people, I give them a nice applause, they did entertain us with… NOTHING!!
    If those 21 Group does not want to pay taxes then so be it, give other importers their chance. I believe those people who imposed the tax are not people who like to watch movies.

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