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'An alternative to drinking'


Owners of new Phnom Penh movie house Flicks hope to broaden the scope

of the capital’s social life by offering a comfortable venue to view movies for all tastes

Comfy futon mats make for easy viewing at Flicks cinema. Holly Pham

DRIVEN by demand for "an alternative activity to drinking" in Phnom Penh,  New Zealanders Martin and Janet Robinson have spent the last two months turning a historic building into the capital's latest movie house.

Flicks cinema, which currently has one theatre that can hold up to 24 people, is appointed with futon mats that allow the audience to view films in total relaxation, lounging with a drink while enjoying movies on the 4.5-metre screen.

The wooden floor and ceiling insulation maximises the sound effects, making the surround-sound system perfect for action films.  

Flicks aims to cater to all tastes by showing movies from many different genres seven days per week.

Martin says Flicks is currently evaluating the market for English-language films in the capital.

"We're testing the water now," Martin said. "The market for Khmer-language cinemas is saturated, so Flicks' focus will be on English-language films, including foreign films with English subtitles."

Aside from the two main target groups - kids and "mainstream" moviegoers - Flicks is trying to insert more alternative material, such as documentaries and art-house films, into its schedule.

Love for the country

When asked about the motivation behind this business venture, the Kiwi couple say they enjoy Southeast Asia, particularly the lifestyle here in Cambodia.

"People you meet here generally are quite dynamic and intelligent - so many well-travelled and interesting people," Janet said.

"And Cambodia has a lot of room for creative, funky business ideas."

The couple's love for Asia has overcome the difficulties associated with lifting a business venture off the ground as foreign nationals living in Cambodia.

"Being a foreigner, everything takes 10 times longer than it would back home.... At times it's quite frightening. It's been a huge learning curve for us," Martin said.

"So much paperwork - and money. Every time we needed a stamp, or a certificate, a document, a thumbprint, everything had some extra cost."

Nevertheless, the couple admits that they have enjoyed the process of starting a new venture in a foreign country.

"There has definitely been more ups than downs," Janet said.

Martin said that since screening its first movie last week, the cinema has done reasonably well, particularly with the capital's expat community.

"We have had a lot of creative suggestions, and all of them have been considered," Martin said.

"In the future, I'm planning to show a music video and have a jam session afterwards.... We've been talking to some film festival people as well," Martin said.

The grand opening of Flicks will take place at 7pm this Friday, with free food and drinks starting at 2,000 riels (US$0.50).  A free movie, Dick the Devil Dared Me To, will be shown at 8pm and will be followed by a Kiwi documentary, The Prime Minister Is Missing.

Flicks cinema is located at 39B Street 95.

Tickets for adults cost $3.50 and $2.40 for kids under 14. The whole cinema can be rented for between $50 and $75 depending on the time of the day and night of the week. 



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