Feature: Selling food, moving online, Indonesia's cinemas manage to survive before reopening

Source: Xinhua| 2021-08-20 16:26:00|Editor: huaxia

by Wang Aona, Hayati Nupus

JAKARTA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- It has been several months since Lisa Siregar, a 36-year-old media worker in Jakarta, went to the cinema to watch a newly released movie last time.

As a movie fan and a podcast show host talking about latest movies around the world, Siregar used to watch three or four movies in cinemas per week.

"Although now I turn to online video platforms to satisfy my hunger for new movies, I really miss the widescreen with class picture quality and reverberating sound," said Siregar.

This year has been tough so far for the cinema industry in Indonesia, especially after the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic which started swirling around the country from mid-June.

Since the implementation of restrictions on public activities in early July, locally known as PPKM, cinemas have been temporarily closed in line with the shopping centers and malls, parts of which are leased out to cinemas.

To cover the basic operational cost with little cash inflow thus became the major issue for cinemas, big and small.

"With the temporary shutdown, one cinema could lose hundreds of millions of rupiah per month," said Djonny Syarifuddin, head of the Indonesian Cinema Management Association (GPBSI). "The biggest cost is for rent, electricity and wages."

Marsya Gusman, public relations manager of CGV, remembers clearly that when the cinemas were required to close for a while in mid-July, a new film had just aired.

CGV is one of the leading cinema chain companies in Indonesia, operating 68 cinemas across 16 provinces with a total of 397 screens.

"Last year, we managed to achieve a revenue of 255.84 billion rupiahs (about 17.52 million U.S. dollars), but there was a significant decrease of 81.91 percent compared to 2019," said Gusman.

To survive amid the pandemic, CGV innovated by selling food and beverage take-outs. The combo of French fries, hotdogs and an extra-large bottle of soda still looks appealing without the setting of a cinema.

"Selling food online isn't able to cover all the operational costs at the moment, but at least part of it, better than doing nothing at all," said Gusman.

For Kinosaurus, a microcinema with 30 seats located in Jakarta, survival is a bigger question mark. In December last year, on its sixth anniversary, employers moved out of the office building for the rent had already been a heavy burden.

"In February this year, we started a virtual cinema. Viewers only need to buy a ticket of 50,000 rupiahs (about 3.4 U.S. dollars) to watch a movie, but they need to finish watching it within 72 hours after the first click," said Alexander Matius, a film curator at Kinosaurus.

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Kinosaurus shows two movies per day. With limited funds, they now provide seven movies every month with a certain theme.

"We have over 100 viewers in recent months, down from around 500 in days before the pandemic. But so far so good. At lease we find a way to survive," said Matius.

However, even after reopening, cinemas still face the difficulty of getting new movies to air. Some filmmakers delayed the premiere, others are leaning towards OTT (over-the-top) platforms to release due to limited box office takings from cinemas. They are probably going to serve no more than 25 or 50 percent of the total capacity under strict health protocols.

Whether going online or not, cinemas can't compete with OTT platforms in terms of viewer coverage, and they are not trying to win.

The experience of watching movies in cinemas is after all irreplaceable. For many, the cinema is like the door to another world. "People enter the cinema with various emotions and thoughts. Once they sit down facing that large screen, they would be all absorbed in the movie and the moment. You can't buy that feeling staying at home," said Matius.

Optimism is getting strong recently. The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced on Tuesday the expanded relaxations of PPKM in Java and Bali to help revive the two islands' economy. Shopping centers and malls are allowed to operate within 50 percent capacity.

"With more people getting vaccinated, I'm sure our situation will get better bit by bit," said Matius.

Siregar is also waiting anxiously for the reopening of cinemas. "I'll invite a friend to go with me. I know we would sit apart, but we would also laugh or cry together," said Siregar. Enditem

KEY WORDS: Indonesia,Cinema,COVID 19,Feature