June 12, 2024

Distribution in Indonesia was the subject of a lively debate at the Busan International Film Festival‘s Asian Contents and Film Market.

With 277 million people, Indonesia has one of the largest populations in the world. However, geographically it is an archipelago and for its population, the country is under-screened with just 2,300 cinema screens. Despite this, box office is booming. The 2022 total surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 levels, with more than 54 million admissions. Indonesia also operates under a unique distribution model in that there are no independent distributors. Producers instead deal directly with the country’s three major multiplex chains and a smattering of small cinemas in second and third tier cities.

“The country’s span is from Dublin to Istanbul, but we have only 2,300 screens,” said producer Angga Dwimas Sasangko of Visinema, whose “Ali Topan” is screening at Busan. Sasangko was speaking at a panel on Indonesian distribution that also included producer Shanty Haramyn of Base and director and producer Ifa Isfansyah, episodes of whose Netflix series “Cigarette Girl,” co-directed with Kamila Andini and produced by Base, are playing at Busan.

Sasangko called for further investment in the theatrical distribution business. “It’s better for you to put money in Indonesia, than bring your film to Indonesia,” Sasangko said. Haramyn added that the doors had been opened by a forward-looking government policy in 2016 that encouraged foreign direct investment in the sector that led to the arrival of global exhibition players, Korea’s CJ-CGV and Latin America’s Cinepolis, to join market leader Cinema 21.

Isfansyah said that he treats his producing partner as a distributor. He provided the example of 2021 film Toronto and Red Sea winner “Yuni,” directed by Andini and produced by him, that was handed over as a rough cut to a local producing partner who re-edited it to suit Indonesian tastes, adding sub-plots. The film was a box office hit.

Variety also separately spoke with a range of prominent Indonesian voices at Busan about the distribution scenario for independent local cinema. Makbul Mubarak, director of Venice winner “Autobiography,” said, “The likeliest scenario is to keep relying on the movie theaters, streamers, and local film community as the best way to reach an audience. Hopefully someday, there would be enough independent films being produced so distribution can grow accordingly.”

“Autobiography” producer Yulia Evina Bhara added: “I believe that streamers are the not antithesis to theaters. They are complimentary and one can inform the other about their own practices and nexus of audiences. To grow as an industry is to care about the growth of all aspects and players in the industry.”

Mouly Surya whose “What They Don′t Talk About When They Talk About Love” is showing at Busan as part of the festival’s Indonesia focus, said, “On paper, every film has a chance and all Indonesian films are ‘independent.’ But marketing to an archipelago with so many different sub cultures is an expensive task.” Yosep Anggi Noen, whose “24 Hours with Gaspar” is in competition at Busan, added, “One of the most challenging aspects is the Indonesian cinema network, which often doesn’t allocate sufficient space or screens for independent films.”

In contrast, independent cinema doyen Joko Anwar said, “Cinema owners usually give opportunities for all movies (even those with little commercial value) to be screened in cinemas with limited screens and can be expanded if it gets a high occupation rate.” Anwar’s “Impetigore” is also screening at Busan as part of the Indonesia focus.

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