JAKARTA -- Cinemas are opening fast in Indonesia as people develop a taste for movies and the government promotes the industry through deregulation.
On a late October weekend, a cinema in a central Jakarta shopping mall was bustling. With tickets priced at 50,000 rupiah ($3.30), a day at the movies is something that even large families can enjoy. A bit more -- 100,000 to 200,000 rupiah -- buys a luxury seat and a meal. Movies are now a leading form of entertainment, especially in cities.
Nusantara Sejahtera Raya, which runs the country's biggest cinema chain under the Cinema 21 brand, plans to expand the number of screens it operates by at least 10% by the end of next year.
Aiming to support growth of Indonesia's film industry, President Joko Widodo's government has relaxed restrictions on foreign investment in movie theaters, and operators from abroad are jumping into the market.
There are about 1,600 movie screens in Indonesia, or just 0.4 screen per 100,000 people, according to the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board. That compares with 14 screens per 100,000 people in the U.S. and 1.8 screens in China. The figure is also significantly lower than in neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia. Only 13% of Indonesia's 260 million people have cinemas in their neighborhood.
Film is an area of focus for Widodo, who is looking to develop the content industry more broadly. Along with the relaxed restrictions on foreign investment, the government has introduced a "one-stop shop" for filmmakers seeking regulatory approvals for production projects.
Cinemaxx, a cinema operator that is part of the Lippo Group conglomerate, on Oct. 19 announced a capital tie-up with Mexican counterpart Cinepolis.
Nusantara has GIC, a Singaporean government fund, among its investors. Nusantara, which operates around 70% of the cinema screens in Indonesia, hopes to use the funding to add 100 to 150 new screens per year, the company said.
After Indonesia democratized in 1998, censorship of films was greatly relaxed. Cinemas now run foreign films, including Hollywood movies, as well as local productions. Comedy, horror and romance are especially popular genres.
In 2008, "Laskar Pelangi," a film about the struggles of 10 poor schoolchildren in a rural village, was a smash hit. In 2012, "Habibie & Ainun," a love story about former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and his wife, also pulled in big crowds.
Some Indonesian filmmakers are turning their attention overseas. In 2014, "The Raid 2," a sequel to a popular action film, featured Japanese actors Kenichi Endo and Ryuhei Matsuda. Foreign investors are putting more money into local productions, according to an industry insider.
According to a Nusantara spokesperson, locally produced films make up about half of all movies screened in Indonesia, and are especially popular outside the capital.
As the industry grows, the popularity of locally made movies is encouraging new productions. But an insider at one cinema operator complained that Indonesian filmmakers tend to take a cookie-cutter approach: Once they find a successful formula, they stick with it. Moviegoers may eventually tire of such fare.