Commercial success of Indonesian films will bring more investment and co-productions. Last year's martial arts epic 'Wiro Sableng' is a good example. (Photo courtesy of Lifelike Pictures)

No More Slaves to Hollywood: Indonesian Films' Upward Trajectory on Global Stage

BY : DHANIA SARAHTIKA

MARCH 11, 2019

Jakarta. Last year, the Indonesian film industry celebrated a new record of over 50 million viewers for a total of 132 local films. And the country isn’t just doing well domestically, it is also becoming a bigger player in the global film market. 

Indonesia’s box office takings reached $355 million last year, up 2.8 percent from $345 million in 2017, making the country the 15th biggest market in the world and sixth largest in Asia Pacific, according to Rance Pow, the founder and chief executive of cinema industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

Artisan Gateway's clients include Hollywood's big studios, such as Dreamworks Animation, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Pictures and Sony Pictures. In Indonesia, the company worked with Cinema XXI in 2013 to acquire the IMAX rights for Indonesia, and with Lippo Group’s Cinemaxx in 2015 as strategic advisors. 

Local films have increased its market share to 37 percent in 2018 from 20 percent in 2015, Pow said. 

In fact, they have dominated the highest grossing list in the past three years, with mega hits such as "Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss! Part 1" (2016) that attracted 6.8 million viewers and "Dilan 1990" (2018) with 6.3 million viewers. 

The fact there are more local movies going past the 1 million viewers benchmark reflects the improving quality of the films and the audience’s trust in them. 

"I think the growing admissions and box office prove that the quality of the films and the development of the stories from Indonesian filmmakers are improving," Pow said in a discussion held by Indonesian Film Producers Association (Aprofi) and Motion Picture Association (MPA) last week.

"You already see some co-productions and investment from international companies like CJ Entertainment from Korea or 20th Century Fox, one of the big Hollywood studios, which shows that major international players are also noticing the upward trend and they’re looking to support more [Indonesian filmmakers] in the future,” Pow said.

Among the films co-produced with CJ Entertainment were Joko Anwar’s "Pengabdi Setan" ("Satan’s Slaves"), which is now the fifth top-grossing Indonesian film of all time with 4.2 million viewers, and last year’s "DreadOut," directed by Kimo Stamboel. 

20th Century Fox collaborated with Lifelike Pictures last year for the martial arts epic "Wiro Sableng: Pendekar Kapak Maut Naga Geni 212" ("212 Warrior").

Pow said the Indonesian film industry is still in its early stage, especially in terms of production budget, but the commercial success of local films will definitely "draw more investment and more interest from local and international sources." 

Pow compared Indonesia's productivity and growing trust in local films to what has been happening in Vietnam. He said 20 years ago, there were only three or four local films in Vietnam's top 20 highest-grossing list, which was dominated by Hollywood fares, but now local films are threatening the popularity of foreign films. 

"About half of the films in the biggest admissions of all time list are local films,” Pow said about Vietnam. 

Indonesia could be following in Vietnam’s footsteps. One of the ways to do that is by increasing the number of cinemas and screens across the archipelago. 

As of 2018, there were around 1,700 screens in Indonesia. Pow said cinema growth will "fuel this virtuous cycle of the industry."

"I think Indonesia can catch up and will catch up [with other countries]…. There are some fundamental things about the Indonesian market that have made us feel very confident that someday Indonesia will be a leading creative and cinema industry player at a global level. You know, with 270 million people, there’s still a relatively small number of cinemas and screens per capita and the creative production industry is still in its infancy," he said. 

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