May 29, 2017 / 11:15 PM / 3 years ago

Indonesian mobile cinema keeps old film format alive in digital age

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian entrepreneur Kamaluddin loves the gritty look of old 35-millimeter film so much that he spends most of his nights screening vintage movies at weddings and parties around Jakarta, the capital.

Children sit in a soccer field watching films, during a wedding party in Tangerang, Indonesia, April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Filmmakers and cinemas have almost completely phased out the 35-mm. format in the past decade as they switch to cheaper, better quality digital formats.

But for Kamaluddin, running a ‘mobile cinema’ means bringing nostalgia and entertainment to the city’s poorer residents.

“It’s more artistic and the sound is much better than digital,” he said. “If you watch three movies in a row, you won’t feel tired, just relaxed.”

He transports a 35-mm projector and sound system, films, a screen and large tent in his truck.

At the venue, usually an open field or outside the home of a customer holding a party or celebration, people gather to watch as Kamaluddin sets up his equipment.

The movies usually run into the early hours of the morning, with street vendors selling food, clothes and toys often setting up nearby, to sell their wares to the cinema-goers. 

Viewers get a chance to reacquaint themselves with films from Hollywood’s golden era and movies from India’s Bollywood, long out of circulation.

Bollywood movies are hugely popular in Indonesia, especially on its islands of Bali and Java, where music and dance are heavily influenced by Indian tradition and performing arts.

“This theater is free of charge and we can watch old movies which we hardly find out there,” said one viewer, Nurul Fitriyah, as she watched an old film on a huge fabric screen.

But earnings have fallen steadily in the mobile cinema business as the younger middle class flocks to air-conditioned movie theaters that offer reclining chairs, or even beds, alongside fast food and soft drinks.

“In 1997, in one night I could set up four screens in four different locations,” said Kamaluddin, who estimates a night’s work could bring in up to $300 in the old days.

“Now, if I’m lucky, I can set up projectors twice a month and earn around $100 per night.”

Reporting by Beawiharta; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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