Indonesians are fighting to keep Hollywood films in local theatres after warnings that a new tax on foreign-made movies could lead to studios pulling out of the country.
Indonesian authorities see the tax as a way to protect the domestic film industry.
Hollywood as represented by the MPAA has responded that the release of Oscar-nominated Black Swan could be the last for a Hollywood film in this nation of 237 million. Distributors from Europe and Asia have made similar warnings.
Film-lovers have taken to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to complain, while the country's largest cinema chain begged for the government to drop the tax.
We'll see theatres close one by one unless a solution is found, warned Noorca Massardie, spokesman of 21 Cineplex, which has more than 500 screens.
It's outrageous! one woman wrote on Facebook. They're taking away our right to watch high-quality films. She noted that domestic industry, still in its infancy stage, leaves much to be desired.
Minister of Culture Jero Wacik said the tax will be reviewed with a final decision expected in two weeks.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) stopped distributing films to Indonesia in February after the Indonesian government introduced a new system of calculating and charging royalties on imported films.
I'm sick and bored of not being able to watch good movies in the cinema, said Marisca Djojopranoto, a 25-year-old a film lover in Jakarta: I miss the cinema so much .
Movie fans are not the only ones lamenting the absence of Hollywood films on the big screen. Cinemas are losing between 40 and 50% of their revenues, said Djonny Sjafruddin, chairman of the Indonesian Cinema Operator Association.
We are just showing what we have and what we have are films about ghosts, Sjafruddin said: It's a major blow for the cinemas and if this continues, many of them may fold, he said, adding that some theatres had reduced screening frequencies
and the number of studios used.
Locally produced films, mostly of the horror genre with bizarre titles such as In the Embrace of the Teen Ghost's Widow and Dancing Karawang Ghost, have taken over at the box office. Such films don't cost a lot to produce and they can make a little
profit, Sjafruddin said.
An Indonesian tax has already put an end to Hollywood films being shown in Indonesian cinemas.
To fill the void the cinema trade turned to local films, most of which seem to be from the low budget ghost film genre.
Now the Indonesian censors are taking aim at this, already 2nd choice, cinema programming.
Muklis Paimi, head of the board, known as the LSF, appeared to suggest it would consider banning the popular genres for screening.
We want to use the upcoming Ramadan [Muslim fasting month] as the right moment to suggest that filmmakers stop making low-quality movies with a lot of sex scenes in them, Muklis told Metro TV:. We will not pass any movies exploiting
those two things.
He advised filmmakers to make movies with educational values.
He added that the LSF also welcomed any filmmakers wishing to discuss the concepts of their upcoming movies: If they want to make such movies, they have to have a dialog with us first. The current practice is, [filmmakers] only come to us once
their movies are finished .
He said the current situation posed a dilemma for the LSF: It's problematic. If we censor the movies too harshly, the movie producers will hold a rally against us, saying that they will suffer material damages if we do not recommend their
movies. In the end, it will affect the national film industry. But when we are being lenient with our censorship, we will receive protests from the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) .
The Indonesian government has succeeded in decimating the local cinema industry by implementing protectionist tax measures against imported films. This resulted in a Hollywood boycott of Indonesia and a devastating halving of cinema takings.
The government has now said that it had asked the Motion Picture Association of America to resume sending films to Indonesia.
I met with US government representatives three days ago to discuss the import of films from MPAA, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said: We have clarified that Indonesia has nothing against the American government, exporters or producers.
The MPAA's international counterpart, the MPA, had said the decision to include royalties in its import-tax calculation had a detrimental impact on the cost of bringing a film into Indonesia.
Last month, the Finance Ministry announced a new scheme that would see importers pay only a specific tax on movies, rather than an ad valorem tax, which was based on each film's ticket sales. The measure was meant to resolve the dispute and head
off the drastic slump in ticket sales since the Hollywood film boycott started.
Indonesian officials have signaled that Hollywood blockbusters, including the latest Harry Potter film, could be back on screens within a fortnight.
Djonny Sjafruddin, head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union, told the Jakarta Globe that almost all film importation issues were now solved: Particularly the ones related to customs, royalties and income tax . We're now only dealing with
This meant Hollywood films might arrive here in as little as 10 days, he said: It will still take time for the films to go through customs, censors and adding the subtitles, he explained.
A key priority is getting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 , which premiered in London last week and began showing in Asia this week, to the chagrin of Indonesian fans.
The turn of events on Thursday was made possible by the Customs and Excise Office clearing newly registered film importer Omega Film to bring in movies. Omega was given a film import license on May 3, but a freeze was imposed as officials sought to
clarify its relationship with Indonesian film giant Cineplex 21. Cineplex 21 is affiliated with Camila and Satrya, two major film importers banned by the Finance Ministry pending payment of Rp 22 billion ($2.6 million) in back taxes and interest.