Indonesian movie lovers are being starved of the latest Hollywood blockbusters by a drawn-out tax dispute which has led US studios to boycott the country in protest. Since the Motion Picture Association (MPA) stopped distributing films to Indonesia in February, cinema takings have tumbled as theatres try to fill the gap with local fare and B-grade foreign films dug out of the rejects bin. Everyone is losing except the sellers of pirated DVDs, who are enjoying a spike in sales.
“Customers are looking for titles like ‘Fast Five’, ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Thor’ because they can’t watch them in the cinema,” said DVD pirate Yani. “They complain that 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 took the drastic step of cutting off supplies of new Hollywood releases to Indonesian theatres earlier this year. Meanwhile cinemas are almost empty. One of Jakarta’s biggest theatres is showing “Elite Squad”, a Portuguese film from 2007, and “My Sassy Girl”, from 2008. The newest US offering is “Source Code”, released last year.
Indonesian Cinema Companies Union head Djonny Sjafruddin said about half of all movies screened in Indonesia — or about 130 films a year — were imported from the MPA, representing US studios including Warner Bros, Universal Studios and Twentieth Century Fox. “Money-wise, that translates to 60 to 70 percent of total income of cinemas here,” said Sjafruddin, whose union represents 240 cinemas nationwide. “The MPA’s move has clearly hurt us. We’ve reduced daily screenings from five to four and stopped midnight and weekend screenings. If this problem isn’t solved, we may all have to shut down.” The studios are reportedly disputing a 22.5 percent tax introduced in June last year on royalties they receive from the distribution of their films in Indonesia.
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