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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My Jakarta: Irna, DVD Rental Manager

In Jakarta, you can get almost anything delivered to your house, but can you think of another place besides Subtitles, in the basement of Dharmawangsa Square City Walk, that can deliver a copy of “12 Angry Men” to your doorstep?

Today, Irna, the managing director of one of the coolest DVD rental shops in the city, talks about her favorite films, how Subtitles got started and which movies Jakarta film buffs crave.

How often do you watch movies?

I try to watch at least three or four a week.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

Something from the Oscars, like “Up in the Air” or “The Blind Side.” I watched them more for reference than anything.

How long have you been working here?

I’ve been working here since 2006. My partner, Rico, started this with only 30 DVDs. It used to be just a club; it was like a hobby. Then we got more movies and incorporated more genres, so we thought why don’t we make this hobby into a real business? That was in 2004.

How many titles do you have here? Are there any movies you want but can’t find?

We stock around 4,000 movies; they’re all originals. We hunt them down from all over. We buy them from suppliers, Amazon.com, Kaskus.us. Rico worked in Singapore, where he could find other titles, and now he works in London, so we get movies from there too.

How many new movies do you get a week?

Around 20 or 30 a week. We update the system here [there are six computers for browsing] and the Web site so our members know about the new titles we get in. They are always asking us, “What new titles do you have this week?”

And you deliver?

The premium and platinum members can have their movies delivered to them.

What are some of the most requested titles?

Independent movies. Right now it’s “500 Days of Summer” and a French anime movie called “Fear[s] of the Dark.”

What kind of people rent movies here?

We have two target markets: the rentals rely on adults and the [four] viewing theaters here rely on college students. We also have the “movie freaks” who are always searching for films from certain directors or certain countries and looking for the special features you can’t find on pirated DVDs.

Can you sneak your own popcorn into the viewing theaters?

We provide snacks and drinks.

Provide?

We sell snacks [smiles]. It’s just like a regular movie theater.

The movies shown in cinemas here are cut for censorship reasons. Is the same thing true for the movies you rent here?

Our movies come from either Region 1 [United States, Canada] or 2 [Europe, Middle East, Japan]. If you bought an original here in Indonesia, it would be cut so much that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie — but that’s not our aim. Our purpose is not simply to rent out uncut movies. We’re trying to expand the knowledge of people who enjoy films. Most people only watch Hollywood movies, but we want to open their eyes to movies from different countries.

Do you rent out Indonesian movies?

No, not yet. There is a problem with distribution and the quality of the stories in the films themselves. But we do sell them. We have the Jive Collection from Blitzmegaplex for sale.

Indonesia seems obsessed with horror films. Are you?

Sorry, but I’m not a fan. The stories just aren’t really that well thought out.

What local movies do you like? Who are your favorite actors?

Mengejar Mas-Mas (“Chasing Dudes”) and Laskar Pelangi (“Rainbow Troops”). I really like Nicholas Saputra and I like Joko Anwar’s films.

What about international filmmakers?

I like [Martin] Scorsese and I was amazed at Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone.” I also like the work of Wong Kar-wai.

What’s your favorite place to catch a film here in Jakarta?

I like to watch movies at Premier 21 in Plaza Senayan.

Have you ever caught anyone making out in the rooms?

Well, we provide private rooms, so that’s private [laughs].

Irna was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Irna, DVD Rental Manager

Picture by Iwan Putuhena