Moviegoers leave Lux cinema on Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, on May 13.
ans of Cambodian movies have expressed dismay at the decline in the number of cinemas in Phnom Penh, saying the closures have grim implications for the future of the country’s struggling film industry.
They said that during the golden age of film-making in Cambodia in the 1960s, Phnom Penh boasted more than 30 cinemas.
“Now there are only two or three left; it is a serious problem because our country was once famous for its movies,” Eng Sethul, the director of Khmer Art Association, said in a phone interview on May 13.
Sethul warned that the film industry is doomed unless it receives support and appealed to the government for assistance.
However, the deputy director of the Department of Performing Arts at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, Ith Chamroeun, said the closure of the cinemas was not a big problem “because they were only used to screen movies.”
If a movie was screened in a field or anywhere other than a cinema it will attract an audience if it is a good story,” Chamroeun said.
Poan Phoung Bopha, the director of drama projects at CTN television, said some cinemas had closed because of the difficulty of arranging movies to screen and some of the films they did show were not interesting to audiences.
She gave three reasons for the falling popularity of cinemas.
One was that most people had neither the time nor money to go to cinemas and another was that some producers had turned to making movies for television because they were cheaper.
The third factor was a decline in the quality of Cambodian movies.
“Some producers and script writers lack ability and copy ideas from local or foreign movies,” Phoung Bopha said.
A veteran from the industry’s golden age, Ly Bun Yim, 66, said producers and directors were also put off by the cost of making a movie, especially at a time of declining cinema audiences.
“It is difficult for Khmer film makers because they have to spend a lot of money to make a good movie,” Bun Yim said, adding that he was spending at least $500,000 on a crime thriller under production.
For some cinema owners, the decision to shut them is a matter of simple economics.
Kong Chantha, the manager of the Bokor cinema on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, said the difficulty of acquiring quality movies and declining audiences meant he could not make any money.
“I converted the cinema to a hotel and restaurant early this year because they will generate more income than screening movies,” Chantha said.
Prak Sopheak, 23, a student at the National University of Management, said she was not troubled by the closure of cinemas.
“I can watch Khmer movies on television,” she said.