Showbiz Hasn’t Caught Indonesian Fever, Pop-Culture

Country remains faraway, 'undiscovered' for most Americans and Europeans

Indonesia has a quarter-billion people, most of them young consumers in the primo demographic range. But showbiz hasn’t caught Indonesian fever yet: It remains a faraway, “undiscovered” country for most Americans and Europeans. The majority of tourists to the country are from Eastern Asia and Australia.

But for developers, the pop-culture scene is booming, reflecting economic changes. There is roughly one cell phone for each person there. But laptops, desktops and landlines are minimal. With so many languages spoken, the TV scene (with a dozen national channels and 100 local ones) is a mixture of fare from around the world. Similarly, theater multiplexes feature films from Hollywood, Bollywood and Asia, as well as native works: The action film The Raid was wildly popular around the globe, meaning it’s worth keeping an eye on the developing talent.

For location work, Indonesia offers a lot. On the financial front, there won’t be any fast paybacks, but for longterm investors, there are opportunities here.

BIZ OPPORTUNITIES

Construction cranes are everywhere, indicating that the country is moving fast. Growth potential: high. But locals warn that it’s still growing, so overseas companies should not expect immediate windfalls. Recent H’wood visitors: “Eat Pray Love,” “The Amazing Race,” “Savages,” “Alex Cross.”

(Pictured Above: It’s a foodie paradise.)

LIFESTYLE

42.2% of the population is aged 25-54; 27% are under 14. There are 250 million mobile phones, but only 20 million Internet users. Young people use smartphones, and use desktops only at school or work. Households tend to be multigenerational, so young people want to go out for fun. Favorite haunt: the malls, which stay open until 10 or 10:30 p.m. There is a lot of outdoor advertising, plus ads in retail centers. Movie auds are targeted via social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Newspapers, not so much. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 15 million credit cards in the country, a number that’s jumped 60% in five years. Value of card transactions has tripled to $21 billion. Some worry about a credit-card debt bubble.

(Pictured Above: Modern building, traditional dragon.)

TRAVEL

Tropical beaches, volcanoes, a tropical climate, with half the land area rainforests. Hotels are comfortable, but the infrastructure poses challenges. For example, public transit isn’t up to speed. Beware of the two-week holiday following Ramadan (a movable date in the fall); that’s when most Indonesians travel to visit relatives.

(Pictured Above: Bukit Tinggi village festival.)

FILM

The country has only 800 screens, mostly at urban upscale multiplexes. Cineplex 21 is the market leader, followed by Blitz. New theaters are alldigital. A 2D ticket costs about $3.30; 3D is $4.50. Exhibs target the whitecollar, middle-class and young. Big hits of 2012 include pics that were popular everywhere, such as “The Avengers,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Ice Age 4″ and “Skyfall,” as well as more surprising hits including “Prometheus” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Local films nab 30%-40% of the B.O.; pics from Bollywood and China are also popular.

(Pictured Above: The Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh)

TV

There is usually one TV set per household, so family fare always does well. Multiple generations sit together and enjoy gameshows, variety shows and dramas, including Turkish and Korean soap operas. The most popular comedy-variety show is “Extravaganza,” a two-hour broadcast by Trans TV on Saturday and Monday nights that bowed in April 2004. Young people also like news and music programs. The country boasts two public broadcasters and about a dozen private broadcasters. There are more than 100 local TV stations. As in most parts of the world, there is widespread use of satellite and cable TV. U.S. shows like “CSI,” “Law & Order” and “Criminal Minds” are popular on pay TV.

Indonesia at a Glance:

HOLLYWOOD’S DEMO HEAVEN
There are 251 million people; 44% are urban dwellers.
Average age of population is 28

Size: 1.9 million square km
Largest city: Jakarta
Terrain: 17,508 islands (only 6,000 inhabited)
Currency: Rupiah

U.S. PERCEPTIONS
It’s not on most Americans’ radar, except for maybe Bali, Krakatoa and the Indonesian smoking baby, a YouTube sensation since 2010.

Languages spoken: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, and 700 others
Religion: 86% liberal Muslim

(From the pages of the March 26 issue of Variety.)

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