Cinema of Indonesia

Cinema of Indonesia has a long history dated back to 1900.[5] Until the 1920s, cinema in Indonesia belonged only to the Europeans, with silent documentaries and feature films imported from France and the United States. Documentaries about the nature and life of Indonesia, sponsored by the Dutch East Indies government were made by the Dutch people or Europeans. Domestic production of documentaries had begun in 1911.[6] During that time, there was a film called Onze Oost or Timur Milik Kita (1919). However, the first domestically produced film in the Dutch East Indies was in 1926: Loetoeng Kasaroeng, a silent film, which was an adaptation of the Sundanese legend of the same name.[7] During 1926, there were movie theatres named as Oriental and Elita in Bandung.[8][9] The first movie theatre in Jakarta was Alhamra, which was opened in 1931.[10]

Cinema of Indonesia
La Piazza 21 Kelapa Gading Jakarta.JPG
La Piazza 21 (now La Piazza XXI) in Jakarta
No. of screens1756 (2018)[1]
Produced feature films (2018)[2]
Number of admissions (2018)[3]
Gross box office (2017)[4]
Total$345 million

Though the film industry is currently the fastest-growing sub-sector of Indonesia's creative economy, it went through a long, struggling period.[11] The number of moviegoers in the country were more than 42 million in 2017. The Indonesian film industry releases more than 100 titles every year.[12] As of 2018, there are about 1,700 screens in Indonesia, which is expected to reach 3,000 by 2020. 21 Cineplex, CGV Cinemas and Cinépolis (previously Cinemaxx) currently dominate the movie theatre industry in Indonesia.[1]


Colonial eraEdit

Advertisement for Loetoeng Kasaroeng, the first fiction film produced in what is now Indonesia

The first showing of films in the Dutch East Indies was in 1900,[5] and over the next twenty years foreign productions – generally from the United States – were imported and shown throughout the country.[13] Domestic production of documentaries had begun in 1911[6] but were unable to compete with imported works.[13] By 1923 a local feature film production spearheaded by the Middle East Film Co. was announced, but the work was not completed.[14]

The first domestically produced film in the Indies was in 1926: Loetoeng Kasaroeng, a silent film by Dutch director L. Heuveldorp. This adaptation of the Sundanese legend was made with local actors by the NV Java Film Company in Bandung and premiered on 31 December 1926 at the Elite and Majestic Theatres in Bandung.[7] The following year, G. Krugers – who had served as a technician and cinematographer for Loetoeng Kasaroeng[15] – released his directorial debut (the second film in the Indies), Eulis Atjih. Owing to Loetoeng Kasaroeng's limited release, Kruger was able to advertise his film as the colony's first.[16] A year later, the second novel to be adapted to film in Indonesia, Setangan Berloemoer Darah, was produced by Tan Boen Soan.[17]

Ethnic Chinese directors and producers, capitalising on the success of films produced in Shanghai, China, became involved in the colony's cinema beginning in 1928, when Nelson Wong completed Lily van Java.[18][19] Although the Wongs went on hiatus, other ethnic Chinese became involved in film. Several Chinese owned start-ups are recorded from 1929 on, including Nancing Film with Resia Boroboedoer (1928) and Tan's Film with Njai Dasima (1929).[20] By the early 1930s Chinese-owned businesses were the dominating force in the country's film industry.[21]

After the Great Depression reached the Indies, production slowed tremendously. The Dutch East Indies government collected higher taxes and cinemas sold tickets at lower prices, ensuring that there was a meagre profit margin for local films. As a result, cinemas in the colony mainly showed Hollywood productions, while the domestic industry decayed.[22] The Teng Chun, who had made his debut in 1931 with Boenga Roos dari Tjikembang, was the only producer able to release films during 1934 and early 1935: his low budget but popular films were mainly inspired by Chinese mythology or martial arts, and although aimed at ethnic Chinese proved popular among native audiences because of their action sequences.[23]

Poster for Terang Boelan, one of three films credited with reviving the Indies' failing film industry

In an attempt to show that locally produced, well-made films could be profitable, the Dutch journalist Albert Balink, who had no formal film experience,[24] produced Pareh in 1935 in collaboration with Nelson Wong and his brothers. Though the film, costing 20 times as much as most contemporary productions, was an ultimate failure, it affected The Teng Chun's directorial style; the latter took less traditional stories.[25] Balink's next attempt, Terang Boelan, was released two years later. Unlike Pareh, Terang Boelan was a marked commercial success, earning 200,000 Straits dollars (then equivalent to US$ 114,470[26]) in two months.[27] These two films are, according to American visual anthropologist Karl G. Heider, Indonesia's most important films of the 1930s.[28]

The triple successes of Terang Boelan, Fatima (1938), and Alang-Alang (1939) revived the domestic film industry.[29] Four new production houses were established in 1940,[30] and actors and actresses previously attached to theatrical troupes entered the film industry, which was reaching new audiences.[31] The new works, fourteen in 1940 and thirty in 1941,[32] generally followed the formula established by Terang Boelan: songs, beautiful scenery and romance.[33] Others, such as Asmara Moerni, attempted to reach the growing native intelligentsia by drawing journalists or figures from the growing nationalist movement into cinema.[34]

Japanese occupationEdit

After its genesis during the Dutch colonial era, the Indonesian film industry was coopted by the Japanese occupiers during the Second World War as a propaganda tool. The first thing the Japanese did was to halt all film production in Indonesia. Then the Office of Cultural Enlightenment (啓民文化指導所) headed by Ishimoto Tokichi appropriated facilities from all filmmaking organisations consolidating them into a single studio which became the Jakarta branch of The Japan Film Corporation (日本映画社) or Nichi'ei.[35] The majority of films made in Indonesia under the Japanese were educational films and newsreels produced for audiences in Japan. The Jakarta branch was strategically placed at the extreme southern end of Japan's empire and soon became a centre of newsreel production in that region. Popular news serials such as News from the South and Berita Film di Djawa were produced here. Japanese newsreels promoted such topics as conscripted "romusha" labourers (ロムシャの生活, 1944), voluntary enlistment into the Imperial Japanese Army (南の願望, 1944), and Japanese language acquisition by Indonesian children (ニッポン語競技会, 1944).[36]

The great victory in Japan's occupation of the Indonesian film industry did not lie in financial gain. Local Japanese-sponsored film production (other than newsreels) remained essentially negligible, and the domestic exhibition market was too underdeveloped to be financially viable. However, Nichi'ei's occupation of the Indonesian film industry was a strategic victory over the West, demonstrating that a non-Western Asian nation could displace Hollywood and the Dutch. Indonesia was one of the last areas in the empire to surrender, and many who worked at Nichi'ei stayed on after defeat to work for Indonesian independence from the Dutch.[36]

Korean director Hae Yeong (aka Hinatsu Eitaro) was one such person who migrated to Java from Korea in 1945, where he made the controversial "documentary" Calling Australia (豪州の呼び声, 1944). After the war, Hae changed his name to Dr. Huyung, married an Indonesian woman with whom he had two sons, and directed three films before his death in 1952, Between Sky and Earth (1951), Gladis Olah Raga (1951), and Bunga Rumar Makan (1952). Calling Australia was commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Army and depicted Japanese prisoner of war camps as if they were country clubs showing prisoners feasting on steak and beer, swimming, and playing sports. After the war, the film caused such a stir that The Netherlands Indies Film Unit rushed into production Nippon Presents which used some of the P.O.W.s from Calling Australia to expose that film as Japanese lies. In 1987, Australian filmmaker Graham Shirley assembled the remaining survivors to make yet another documentary about how both regimes had conspired to exploit the prisoners each for their own purposes.[36]

After independenceEdit

Former cinema Megaria (ca. 1960-80), today Cinema Metropole XXI.

After independence, the Sukarno government used it for nationalistic, anti-imperalist purposes and foreign film imports were banned. After the overthrow of Sukarno by Suharto's New Order regime, films were regulated through a censorship code that aimed to maintain the social order and regime grip on society.[37] Usmar Ismail, a director from West Sumatra, made a major imprint in Indonesian film in the 1950s and 1960s.[38] Djamaluddin Malik's Persari Film often emulated American genre films and the working practices of the Hollywood studio system, as well as remaking popular Indian films.[39]


The industry reached its peak in the 1980s, with successful films such as Naga Bonar (1987) and Catatan si Boy (1989). Warkop's comedy films, directed by Arizal also proved to be successful. The industry has also found appeal among teens with such fare as Pintar-pintar Bodoh (1982), and Maju Kena Mundur Kena (1984). Actors during this era included Deddy Mizwar, Eva Arnaz, Lidya Kandou, Onky Alexander, Meriam Bellina, Rano Karno, and Paramitha Rusady.[40] The film Tjoet Nja' Dhien (1988) winning 9 Citra Awards at the 1988 Indonesian Film Festival.[41] It was also the first Indonesian movie chosen for screening at the Cannes Film Festival,[41] where it was awarded Best International Film in 1989.[42]


By the 1990s, imports of foreign films resumed, and the artistic quality of Indonesian films was reduced due to competition, especially from the US and Hong Kong. The number of movies produced decreased significantly, from 115 in 1990 to just 37 in 1993.[43] Rampant counterfeiting and television also contributed to the degradation of Indonesian cinema. In this decade, Indonesian cinema was dominated by serial electronic cinema (sinetron). Multivision Plus under Raam Punjabi, controlled one of many cinema companies who produced sinetron. The majority of films produced were exploitive, adult-themed B-movies shown in budget cinemas and outdoor screenings or direct-to-video or television.[40] In 1996, 33 films were made in Indonesia, with the majority of the films produced were filled with adult-themed content, and later on, decreased significantly. Only seven domestic films were made in 1999.

Number of feature films produced in Indonesia from 1926 to 2017


Under the Reformasi movement of the post-Suharto era, independent filmmaking was a rebirth of the film industry in Indonesia, where films started addressing topics which were previously banned such as religion, race, love and other topics.[37]

In 2002, the number of domestic films made increased from only six in 2001 to ten. It continued to increased significantly as the years passed on.

Recent notable films include Ada Apa dengan Cinta? directed by Rudi Soedjarwo in 2002, Eliana Eliana, directed by Riri Riza, and Arisan! starring Tora Sudiro, which was released in 2005, Beauty and Warrior, Indonesia's first animated feature film was released. That same year Gie (dir. Riri Riza), based on a biopic of Indonesian activist Soe Hok Gie, was also released.

The release of Ayat-Ayat Cinta, directed by Hanung Bramantyo, attracted one segment of audience like never before in the Indonesian film history. The melodramatic story did not give new approaches to cinematic storytelling, but the crossover between Islam and modern-romance story has succeeded in luring Muslims around the country into cinemas.[44]

In 2009, Infinite Frameworks released their first full-length animation movie, Sing to the Dawn ("Meraih Mimpi" in Indonesian). The movie itself is almost Indonesian-made since some of the top members are foreigners. However, all artists and dubbers are Indonesian, and most of the dubbers are top celebrities such as Gita Gutawa, Surya Saputra, and Jajang C. Noer.


Between 2010 until 2011, due to the substantial increase in value-added tax applied to foreign films, cinemas no longer have access to many foreign films, including Oscar-winning films. Foreign films include major box offices from the West and other major film producers of the world. This has caused a massive ripple effect on the country's economy. It is assumed that this increases the purchase of unlicensed DVDs. However, even copyright violating DVDs now take longer to obtain. The minimum cost to view a foreign film not screened locally is IDR one million. This is equivalent to US$100, as it includes a plane ticket to Singapore.[45]

The Indonesian film market is in the C, D, E classes, and due to this, foreign porn stars such as Sasha Grey, Vicky Vette, Maria Ozawa, Sora Aoi, and Rin Sakuragi have been invited to play a part in movies. Most locally made movies are low-budget horror films.[46]

Locally made film quality has gone up since 2011, this was attested by the international release of films such as The Raid (2011)[47] and its 2014 sequel,[48] Modus Anomali (2012), Dilema (2012), Lovely Man (2012), Java Heat (2013) and Pengabdi Setan (2017).[49]

Film festivalsEdit

The major film festival of Indonesia is the Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest) held every year in December since 1998. The eighth festival began on 8 December 2006 with Babel, a film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The 9th JiFFest was held on 7–16 December 2007.

Jakarta also hosted film festivals such as the 52nd Asia-Pacific Film Festival (APFF) on 18–22 November 2008.

Another event is the Indonesian Film Festival (Festival Film Indonesia/FFI), which has been held intermittently since 1955. From 1973 to 1992, the festival was held annually and then discontinued until it was later revived in 2004. It hosts a competition, which hands out the Citra Award.

Movie theatresEdit

Record shows there were movie theatres named as Oriental and Elita during 1926 in Bandung.[8][9] The earliest cinema hall in Jakarta was Alhamra at Sawah Beasar which was established in 1931. Other old cinema halls in Jakarta were Astoria, Grand, Metropole, Rex, Capitol, Rivoli, Central, Orion etc.[50] As of 2018, there are about 1700 screens in Indonesia, which is expected to reach 3000 by 2020. Cineplex 21, CGV Cinemas and Cinemaxx currently dominate the movie theatre industry in Indonesia with 1,003, 275 and 203 screens, respectively.[1]

The largest cinema chain in Indonesia is 21 Cineplex, which has cinemas spread throughout thirty cities on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali, Sulawesi, Moluccas, and Papua. It has three separate brands to target different markets, namely Cinema 21, Cinema XXI, and The Premiere. Since 2012, Cinema 21 outlets are gradually being renovated to become Cinema XXI.

Another cinema chain is Blitzmegaplex, which opened its first location in 2006. In 2017, the brand name was changed to CGV.[51] As of January 2019 it has already opened 57 theaters with 249 screens in 21 cities across Indonesia.[52] Its Megaplex at Grand Indonesia in Jakarta is dubbed Indonesia's largest cineplex by the MURI (Indonesian Record Museum).

Cinemaxx, launched by Lippo Group, opened its first cinema at The Plaza Semanggi on 17 August 2014. Cinemaxx currently operates 45 cinemas with more than 200 screens in Indonesia. It expects to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens spread across 85 cities in the next ten years.[53]

In May 2017, Agung Sedayu Group opened FLIX Cinema, with its first outlet at PIK Avenue, North Jakarta. Three months later, it opened its second outlet at Grand Galaxy Park, Bekasi. It plans to open outlets at District 8 Shopping Centre, South Jakarta and Mall of Indonesia, North Jakarta (replacing CGV).

Many smaller independent cinemas also exist, such as Platinum, New Star, BES Cinema, Surya Yudha Cinema, and Dakota Cinema.


  • A to Z about Indonesian Film, Ekky Imanjaya (Bandung: Mizan, 2006).
  • Katalog Film Indonesia 1926-2005, JB Kristanto (Jakarta: Nalar, 2006). ISBN 978-979-99395-3-1

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Number of Cinema Screens in Indonesia Expected to Double Over Next 3 Years". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Indonesia the next biggest box office market". Film Journal. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Biran 2009, p. 2.
  6. ^ a b Biran 2009, p. 53.
  7. ^ a b Robertson, Patrick (September 1993). The Guinness Book of Movie Facts & Feats. Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-1-55859-697-9.
  8. ^ a b "Loetoeng Kasaroeng". (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Konfidan Foundation. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b Biran 2009, pp. 66–68.
  10. ^ "Potret Bioskop di Jakarta dari Masa ke Masa". Liputan 6. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Rising from a century of lost hopes". Southeast Asia Globe. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Coming soon in 2019, a year to watch in Indonesian cinema". Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b Biran 2009, pp. 33–35.
  14. ^ Biran 2009, p. 57.
  15. ^ Biran 2009, pp. 60–61.
  16. ^ Biran 2009, p. 73.
  17. ^ Woodrich 2014, p. 27.
  18. ^ Biran 2009, p. 77.
  19. ^ JCG, Lily van Java.
  20. ^ Biran 2009, p. 379.
  21. ^ Biran 2009, pp. 380–381.
  22. ^ Biran 2009, p. 145.
  23. ^ Biran 2009, pp. 147–150.
  24. ^ Biran 2009, pp. 160–162.
  25. ^ New York Times 1938, Foreign Exchange.
  26. ^ Biran 2009.
  27. ^ Heider, Karl G. (1991). Indonesian Cinema: National Culture on Screen. U of Hawaii P. p. 15. ISBN 9780824813673. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  28. ^ Biran 2009, p. 182.
  29. ^ Biran 2009, p. 205.
  30. ^ Said 1982, p. 27.
  31. ^ Biran 2009, p. 380–383.
  32. ^ Biran 2009, p. 25; Said 1982, p. 25.
  33. ^ Biran 2009, p. 260.
  34. ^ Baskett, Michael (2008). The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3223-0.
  35. ^ a b c Baskett, The Attractive Empire.
  36. ^ a b Sen, Krishna (2006). Giecko, Anne Tereska (ed.). Contemporary Asian Cinema, Indonesia: Screening a Nation in the Post-New Order. Oxford/New York: Berg. pp. 96–107. ISBN 978-1-84520-237-8.
  37. ^ Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (1996). The Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. p. 690. ISBN 978-0-19-811257-0.
  38. ^ Kuhn, Annette (2012). A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-19-958726-1.
  39. ^ a b Kristianto, JB (2 July 2005). "Sepuluh Tahun Terakhir Perfilman Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Kompas. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  40. ^ a b Monash 2007-08-03, Tjoet Nja' Dhien.
  41. ^ Siapno 2006, p. 25.
  42. ^ "Kondisi Perfilman di Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on 21 December 1999.
  43. ^ Sasono, Eric (4 April 2008). "Pertemuan Baru Islam dan Cinta". Kompas. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013.
  44. ^ "New Import Policy Will Kill Indonesian Film Industry: Noorca". Jakarta Globe. 21 February 2011. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  45. ^ Belford, Aubrey (28 March 2011). "Porn Stars, Clad? They Seem to Appeal to Indonesian Filmgoers". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  46. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (17 May 2012). "The Raid - review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  47. ^ Rizky Sekar Afrisia (24 January 2014). ""The Raid 2: Berandal" Mengguncang Festival Film Internasional" (in Indonesian). Viva. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  48. ^ Yosephina, Liza (3 April 2018). "'Pengabdi Setan' opens at No. 1 in Hong Kong". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 6 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  49. ^ "Potret Bioskop di Jakarta dari Masa ke Masa". Liputan 6. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  50. ^ "CGV Blitz Rebrands, Changes Name to CGV Cinemas". The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  51. ^ "Kontrak Habis, CGV MoI Ditutup". Kompas. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  52. ^ "Cinemaxx Hadir di Mall Living World Pekanbaru". Berita Satu. Retrieved 28 September 2018.

Works citedEdit

External linksEdit