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Reel-ing in: Investing in movies as world battles pandemic

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, January 16, 2021  /  03:13 pm
Reel-ing in: Investing in movies as world battles pandemic

Investing in movies: Despite the pandemic, in the third quarter of 2020, Visinema grew in the double digits year-on-year. (Shutterstock/Fer Gergory)

When you hear the word investing, you’d probably think of day traders staring intently at graphs and numbers, not blockbuster movies starring a cast of A-listers. Even more so during a pandemic.

But when you consider that some titles can go on to become major cultural milestones, perhaps investing in the movies isn’t such a farfetched idea after all.

Production house Visinema Pictures founder and CEO Angga Dwimas Sasongko said their core business fundamentals were simple: story, execution and distribution.

“In the first 10 years of Visinema, we were focused on the story and execution – we’ve pretty much mastered them. The pandemic taught us many things, chiefly independency as a content creator,” he said.

“We originally thought independency as a content creator was when we could create content or a story however we liked. However, the pandemic made us realize that we are not independent enough if we don’t have our own distribution channels; as in we don’t know how to distribute and monetize our own content.”

Angga Dwimas SasongkoAngga Dwimas Sasongko (JP/-)

During an online discussion held by Visinema Pictures and investment consulting firm Jagartha Advisors, Angga noted that looking back through their 12 years in business, they never made a movie that was a financial loss.

This, he continues, is proof that their business model is strong, in that they do not rely solely on ticket sales, rather the entire ecosystem of the intellectual property.

Certainly, the numbers reflect that.

Angga explained that despite the pandemic, in the third quarter of 2020, Visinema grew in the double digits year-on-year.

On the business side, Jagartha Advisors CEO FX Iwan highlighted the last five years of the creative industry, where growth had been constant in line with the transformation of technology. “That’s what we sought to capture by diversifying to an industry that’s rapidly growing,” he said.

Iwan said the content industry, of which film is one part, has become attractive to investors since the opening of the negative investment list (DNI) through Presidential Decree No. 44/2016.

“What that means is that the openness to compete openly and granting further funding access to industry players has of course given the industry the chance to grow rapidly,” he explained.

Prior to this, Iwan said the industry had been hampered by the relatively few amount of theater screens compared to the per capita population.

In comparison to United States, he said Indonesia only had 0.4 screens per capita, compared to 18 screens per capita in the US.

“After the list was removed, investment in the screens have accelerated, and the total number has grown to more than 2,000 to this day. The pandemic has impeded it somewhat, but the number of screens will grow in the coming years.”

Award-winning: Visinema’s 'Keluarga Cemara' (Cemara Family) was among the top 10 most watched movies last year with 1.7 million viewers.Award-winning: Visinema’s 'Keluarga Cemara' (Cemara Family) was among the top 10 most watched movies last year with 1.7 million viewers. (Courtesy of Visinema Pictures /-)

Along with theaters, Iwan also highlighted alternative distribution channels.

“Previously, the reliance on cinema screens was rather high, meaning when the movie cannot be absorbed by a large audience, the risk in investing is also high.”

With the advent of technology, he reiterated Angga’s focus on an IP-driven ecosystem, where the movie no longer stands on its own. 

Instead, investors will look at whether the IP can be made into other extensions, in the hope of creating a fan base that will not only enjoy the works but also support the industry’s development through small-scale investments of their own.

“This type of crowdfunding has been proven in the stock market with the rising numbers of mutual fund investors. Hopefully, with this openness, individual investors can participate in the industry so that growth will be even more rapid.”

Examples include Visinema’s own Filosofi Kopi (Coffee Philosophy), based on the short story by Dee Lestari. Along with the movie adaptation, the IP also has expanded a line of merchandise, Filosofi Kopi-branded bicycles in collaboration with Element, to its own coffee shops across three cities.

And there’s comic book giant Marvel, which began life as a series of comic books and later, over the years, has expanded into video games, its own cinematic universe, along with countless merchandise, memorabilia and collaborations, with eager fans snapping up whatever they can get their hands on.

Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Angga pointed out the fact that the wildly successful franchise began with Iron Man in 2008, at a time where the US was grappling with a financial crisis.

“But on one hand, there was a wave from Hollywood where the phase of big-budget superhero movies started. Until this day we can see that the major box office movies are big-budget superhero titles, along with genre-specifics like horror.”

He was optimistic in seeing that the 2008 crisis resulted in a major breakthrough for entertainment, which he believes will happen again with 2020.

“We’re preparing films we believe the audience will seek after the pandemic or when cinemas reopen, particularly entertaining ones. We will be releasing five titles next year, one of them being an animated film, and we hope they will offer new things so that the public can gain new experiences in cinemas.” (ste)


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