Travel the world without leaving your couch by watching Indonesian cinema and immerse yourself in a new culture without leaving your pajamas. The region’s past could potentially be revealed to you.
Many countries have their own film industries; we just don’t hear about them as much as we should. Smaller markets mean smaller budgets, so a $100 million film in Indonesia, for example, is not going to happen. Unfortunately, the popularity of Indonesian films has never matched that of Hollywood productions. This, coupled with Indonesia’s censorship, has prevented the Indonesian film industry from reaching the rest of the globe.
To really be able to sell a film around the world, you need to have the same level of understanding in all markets and be able to balance the differences in understanding that come from different cultures. That is to say, if you want to attract a wide audience, you must create a film that appeals to a wide audience.
Indonesian cinema dates back to the 1920s. However, early attempts were not well received by local audiences since the Japanese invaders had banned film production during World War II. Later on, only officially sanctioned films could be broadcast. Therefore, most films produced in Indonesia throughout the ’50s and ’60s were boring and dogmatic. It wasn’t until the 1980s when Indonesian movies became semi-successful.
- 1965 to 1968 President Suharto’s dictatorship stops the film industry from flourishing with censorship
- Late 60s to early 70s, censorship starts to drop
- 1972 heavy censorship returns
Indonesian Cinema Starts to Flourish in the 80s
- 1988 Tjoet Nya’ Dhien becomes the first Indonesian film ever to be included in the feature category at Cannes in 1989
- 1990s Indonesian film industry hits another dead-end.
- 1998 the start of political reformation gives the film industry a boost
In 2015, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a plan to improve the country’s creative economy. Since then, restrictions on foreign investment in local film production have been lifted. Because of this, companies like South Korea’s Lotte Cinema Co. Ltd., Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox and CJ Group began to invest in Indonesia’s film industry.
Since regulatory changes in 2016 allowed for hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment, mostly from Singapore and South Korea, the two largest theater chains in the nation, Cinema 21, and CGV, have expanded rapidly.
CGV, the smallest of the two, increased from 19 theaters and 139 screens in 2015 to 67 theaters and 389 screens in 2019, while revenue more than quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. Cinema 21’s growth grew even larger.
2018, “Wiro Sableng 212” became the first collaboration between Fox and a local production house.
In recent years, more and more Indonesian films have received recognition at international festivals, despite the Indonesian film industry still having a hard time letting go of censorship and stringent standards.
With a number of well-known movies that have drawn big crowds. It’s a great thing for Indonesia’s national film industry, since more investors are likely to pay attention to it now.
The industry should thrive as filmmakers improve their skills and seek for larger budgets for better films. Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest population, that’s a lot of eyes.
However, the pandemic has caused some movie releases to terminate their theatrical runs early. Some new releases went directly to digital and DVD sales, or were released exclusively for digital rental, or released concurrently in theaters and on digital rental.
This has generated a stir among struggling theater companies that would have to shut down if they were to compete with digital streaming providers. Production firms would prefer have their movies seen in cinemas than streamed online, thus the release dates of certain movies have been pushed back indefinitely.
Then there’s the problem of movie piracy and the damage it does to the film business, beginning with the “seeder” (the person who uploads the pirated movie) and continuing with the “leechers” (those who download it and then never pay anything for it). However, numerous studies and research have shown that piracy is not threatening the survival of the film business. The reason is straightforward: those who regularly engage in file sharing are more likely to spend money on legitimate forms of entertainment than those who seldom do so.
And obviously, an inferior copy recorded from a smartphone, coupled with a poor internet connection or an annoying online casino ad, would have a hard time replicating good-quality entertainment.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s creative economy is seeing rapid expansion, especially the film industry. More than 52 million Indonesians went to the movies in 2019.
In 2019, 230 films were produced by Indonesia’s film industry.
There are around 2,000 screens in Indonesia as of 2019; this number is expected to reach 3,000 by 2020. Presently, the largest movie theater chains in Indonesia are 21 Cineplex, CGV Cinemas (formerly Blitzmegaplex), and Cinépolis (formerly Cinemaxx).
Finally, the phenomenal success of “KKN” implies that consumer spending is beginning to recover from the pandemic doldrums. In Europe and the United States, excessive consumer spending has driven inflation, but this has never been a major worry in Indonesia. The greater fear was that consumer spending would be difficult to recover from after the pandemic. Based on the box office results for “KKN,” it is evident that moviegoers are eager to spend their disposable cash at theaters again, and at such a pace that it is breaking all-time box office records. This is a positive indicator not just for the Indonesian film industry, but for the economy as a whole.
Check out the top 50 Indonesian movies here