Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

The continuing boycott of the Indonesian film market by Hollywood studios has caused no end of grief and disappointment among local movie buffs and cinemas houses. But in one corner of Kemang in a bevy of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, those selling pirated DVDs of recent Hollywood releases are enjoying a brisk increase in business.

For many Indonesian moviegoers, the past couple of months have been like a never-ending scene from a very bad film.

Back in February, no one would ever have imagined that the standoff between the Indonesian tax authorities and the Motion Picture Association of America over the imposition of a new tax system for imported films would last this long.

As a result of this fiasco, there have been a number of clear losers: Indonesian movie lovers who have been deprived of access to imported films on the big screen; the local cinema industry which has seen a 60 percent drop in income from such screenings; and, of course, foreign studios who have suffered from the negative impact of a 50 percent jump in demand for pirated DVDs since they began their boycott of the Indonesian market.

In the last five months, Indonesia moviegoers have missed the big screen experience of blockbuster Hollywood releases such as Black Swan, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung-Fu Panda 2, Fast Five, The Hangover Part 2, X-Man First Class, and much more.

But that hasn’t stopped movie lovers here from enjoying these films in another setting – on pirated DVDs in the comfort of their living rooms.

“Usually, I go to the cinema with my girlfriend every Saturday,” says Martin, a banker who is an avid filmgoer. “Now we stay in my apartment for movies. I just bought new speakers for my entertainment system. I guess I have to stick to pirated DVDs.”

As elsewhere in Indonesia, residents of Kemang are resorting to pirated DVDs to satisfy their need for a new film fix, and pirated DVD vendors here, especially those located within a parade of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, are enjoying a sharp increase in business, particularly since there are now few goods films available in the cinemas.

Julia (not her real name) works at one of the pirated DVD vendors in Kemang and says demand for new Hollywood releases has gone up since February. “Most of the new movies are sold out, even if they’re not good quality,” she says. “Before, people were somewhat picky in choosing movies, but now they just buy anything that is available.”

Other pirated DVD vendors around Kemang have also reported seeing a boost in sales. They are capitalizing on this opportunity by selling the movies for only Rp 7,000, or less than a dollar, each.

Missing the Silver Screen

Since the boycott, work has been busier than ever. Previously, Julia says she was able to get four days off a month, but now she can only take two days. “Every morning I have to put hundreds of DVDs, along with the cover, in the plastic slip,” she says. “On our busiest days, we can sell more than 1,000 DVDs.”

So far, the authorities have not made any major efforts to halt the distribution of pirated movies. Since the beginning of this year, the Kemang area has not been raided by the police, says Julia.

Moviegoers, meanwhile, say they have no choice but to resort to pirated DVDs. Andrea, an international school student who lives in the Kemang area and usually goes to the cinema two or three times a week, admits that since the boycott she has started buying more pirated movies than she had in the past. “I usually bought pirated DVDs only for movies that I don’t want to watch in the cinema,” she says. “However, every time there are blockbuster movies and new releases that I’m interested, I’m willing to pay five times more for the comfort and thrill of watching it on the big screen.”

Pirated DVDs may be a quick solution to the boycott problem, but they are not without their drawbacks, such as poor quality pictures for movies with great visual animation such as Cars 2 or Rio, or the irritation of having a disk skip in the middle of an action combat scene in a movie such as Thor.

Rina is a secretary and movie lover who works in the Kemang area. Before the boycott, she often went to the cinema with her co-workers after office hours. Now she spends most of her time at cafés or bars. “I really miss watching movies in the cinemas,” she says. “Sometimes I feel it’s a waste to watch good movies on a low quality DVD. I really wish that the boycott would end before they release Harry Potter, because I don’t want to watch the pirated version.”

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

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