Danny Mulyana, 48, is Bioskop Grand's last projectionist. Here he's checking the celluloid film for ‘Cintaku Di Rumah Susun’ ('My Love at the Condo') in his old projection booth. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Not So Grand Anymore


MARCH 30, 2019

Today is National Film Day. First commemorated in 1962 to pay tribute to what is widely regarded as Indonesia's first full-fledged local film, Usmar Ismail's "Darah dan Doa" ("Blood and Prayer"), it now regularly passes without too much fanfare. Kineforum, a mini-cinema run by the Jakarta Arts Council at Taman Ismail Marzuki, used to host National Film Month, when they screened classic Indonesian movies by Usmar, Sjuman Djaja, Asrul Sani and other legendary directors, but the space is now reportedly awaiting demolition. 

Not too far from Kineforum, in a dirty corner of Senen right next to a row of famous Nasi Kapau warungs, another movie theater already lies in ruins. It's Bioskop Grand, or as an unknown genius translator rendered it in good and proper Indonesian sometime in the early 1990s, Mulia Agung, once one of Jakarta's busiest movie theaters, first opened in 1920 when Indonesia was still a Dutch colony. The Indonesian word for cinema, "bioskop," is derived from the Dutch "bioscoop."

Aside from being used to house hundreds of broken ATMs, turned into a makeshift parking lot during the day and occasionally as a temporary gallery for underground performance artists at night, the old cinema now lies abandoned, having closed its curtains for good back in 2016. Though you might not know it, since its rusty facade is still being used to this day to display posters for new movies being played elsewhere. 

The Jakarta Globe visited Bioskop Grand on Tuesday (26/03) to meet Danny Mulyana, its last ever projectionist. Danny was originally from Garut in West Java and moved to Jakarta in 2005. He started working at Bioskop Grand two years later, playing reels of what locals used to call "film esek-esek" ("sex films"). 

The old projection booth is now stacked from floor to ceiling with dusty chairs, rusty scrap metal, damaged projectors, old posters and cans of celluloid films. It's a veritable time machine that will transport every film geek back to the heyday of Indonesian films in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

"We used to have 16mm and 35mm celluloid projectors. Modern cineplexes killed us," said Danny, who also worked as a reel delivery man just like Joni, the protagonist in Joko Anwar's comic tribute to celluloid film, "Janji Joni" ("Joni's Promise"). 

"The last film we got in celluloid was Aditya Gumay's 'Rumah Tanpa Jendela' ('House Without a Window') in 2011. After that, people started whispering Bioskop Grand will be closed down soon," he said.

Today, with the permission of the cinema's owner, the 48-year-old still lives in a small room inside the cinema and sells DVDs from a tiny stall where the ticket boxes used to be.

Danny still took care of the old projectors, posters and some celluloid films left in the cinema. "I still like watching these films in my spare time. Yesterday, some college students came here. They wanted me to screen some of them on their campus. Haha, sure, I'd be more than happy to do that. These young kids need to see the classics," he said.

We followed Danny as he walked down a dark aisle from the projection booth to smoke a cigarette. In between puffs of kretek, he said, "Sometimes I feel very nostalgic. For me, each screening of a real celluloid film has its own memories. Ribbon breaks, lights go out. I even married a woman who used to work here, too!"

Old movie posters and celluloid films are seen in Danny
Danny keeps old film reels and posters of '90s 'film esek-esek' in his old projection booth. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny checks his old movie collections at his small studio in Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) He often sell his collection to movie collectors from India or give it for free to Sinematek Indonesia. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny checking his old film stock on Tuesday (26/03). He sometimes sells his classic film collection to collectors from India or gives it away for free to be archived at Sinematek Indonesia. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny tries to operated New Rola projector in Grand Teather Senen cinema, Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) The Rola projectors were made by The Rola co.ltd in Osaka, Japan. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Bioskop Grand's old New Rola projector, made by The Rola Company from Osaka, Japan. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny cleans his old projector in his small studio in Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) He always conducts a routine check because there is no spare part left to repair the projector. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny still cleans his old projector regularly. He has no spare part left if it gets damaged. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
The former projectist repairs a connector cable in old projector on Tuesday (26/03) Celuloid movie can
Repairing a connector cable in the old projector. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Trying on an old but still clean copy of 'Cintaku Di Rumah Susun,' a classic comedy from 1987 starring Deddy Mizwar and Eva Arnaz, at that time considered Indonesia's sexiest movie star. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny listens carefully to Cintaku Di Rumah Susun audio quality in his small studio in Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) Watching old movie is a sentimental moment for him (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny still watches his old celluloid film collection in his spare time. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Grand Teather Senen old empty seats are seen on the former cinema in Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) Since it was built in the 1920s and became one of the favorite entertainment venues on three decades since 1970s, the legendary cinema was forced to screen its last movie through 'Midnight Saw' program on December 31, 2016 with a total audience of 15 people including 3 crew members.(JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Bioskop Grand's last ever screening was a special 'Midnight Saw' program on Dec. 31, 2016, attended by a grand audience of 15 people including three crew members. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Danny carries a ticket price banner from inside the Grand I cinema, in Senen, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (26/03) Each person must buy Rp 2.000 tickets back to 1980. That is equivalent to the current Rp.50,000 exchange rate. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
An old ticket price sign from the 1980s. Rp 2000 is around 10 cents. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)