Hollywood Returns to Indonesia with 'Harry Potter'

9:27 PM PST 07/25/2011 by Associated Press
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Brothers

Tax dispute on imported films kept Hollywood off the screens; Ramadan may delay releases.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hollywood blockbusters will soon return to Indonesian screens, with the final Harry Potter film leading the way to end a five-month drought caused by a standoff over the country's tax on imported movies, an official said Monday.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is being imported by a newly established local company and will be released before Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month that begins Aug. 1, said Djonny Sjafruddin, head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union. He declined to give an exact release date.

"All things such as censorship and subtitles have already been finished," Mr. Sjafruddin said. "We need some 90 copies and they are now under process."

He added that Transformers 3 and Kung Fu Panda 2 would also be released during the next several weeks.

The announcement signals relief for moviegoers forced for months to make do with local productions and second-tier foreign releases because of the protracted dispute between studios, film importers and the government.

In February, six major Hollywood studios withdrew films from Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation of 237 million people, in opposition to a new levy on imported movies that was meant to protect local filmmakers.

Last month the government announced a revised tax it said would bring back Hollywood movies, but their return had been blocked by another dispute.

Indonesia's largest film distributors remain banned from bringing in new films, pending their payment of more than $30 million in unpaid taxes and related penalties. The film importers are challenging that in court.

The debut of Harry Potter and the other movies is made possible by the recent establishment of a new film importer, PT Omega Film, Mr. Sjarifuddin said. The new company has no tax problems and so can distribute the newest Hollywood movies.

Many Indonesian film lovers turned to the black market for the latest movies during the five-month blackout. Pirated DVD vendors reported a 50% increase in sales, according to local media. Others flew to Singapore to see the latest Hollywood hits.

Studios participating in the boycott include Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Warner Bros. Pictures and Universal Pictures, leaving Indonesian movie fans gasping. Normally, they spend an estimated $6.2 million a month, but local media report box-office takings have been down 60 to 70 percent since February.

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