Phnom Penh is about to get its first, in-many-a-year, English-language movie theatre
showing Hollywood blockbusters.
Starting August 16 the Vimeantip (Sacred Monument) theatre on Monivong Blvd. between
222 and 228 will present Western films nightly.
The project is a result of ten months of work by a group of private investors including
Simon Parr of Le Shop fame.
"I was sitting around one night and got bored," quipped Parr by way of
explanation on how he came up with the idea to open an English-language movie theatre
last year. "I saw a need for recreation facilities other than going to a restaurant,
a bar or sitting at home and watching a poor version of some video made in Thailand."
On a more serious note Parr pointed to the fact that in the last year many of the
existing movie theatres in Phnom Penh have been sold and converted into bars or discotheques.
With the rapid decline in the number of functioning movie theatres in the capital,
the Ministry of Culture's Department of Cinema and Video was becoming increasingly
concerned that Cambodia's film industry would be adversely affected. They have given
Parr their full cooperation.
Parr and his partners renovated the Vimeantip, which until just after the elections
was called the Pracheachun. The cinema's 960 seats have been refurbished, the leaks
in the roof fixed, air conditioning installed and the entire edifice was given a
new coat of paint. A new four by nine meter movie screen is also in the process of
being installed and two of the four aging Russian 35mm movie projectors have been
given an overhaul.
All films shown must be approved by the Cinema Department's board of censors. Explicit
sex is banned. As a perplexing but perhaps predictable expression of Cambodia's attempted
transition to pluralism, any references to Vietnam, Russia, and flags showing the
communist hammer and sickle are also forbidden. (The question of films on the Ukraine
or Tadjikistan has not come up yet.)
Ironically, in a country plagued by warfare, one of Hollywood's favorite and most
profitable subjects-gratuitous violence-does not seem to be on the censor's list
All four films shown to the censors so far have been approved. Coming your way soon
at the Vimeantip are "A few Good Men," "Toy Soldiers," "Lambada,"
and the film which will open on Monday, "The Gladiator."
Parr says show times will be at 7 and 9 P.M. although he's not sure if the same film
will be shown twice or if two different movies will be screened.
"The public will have to bear with us for a while until we sort out session
times," he says.
The Vimeantip may also offer a late show on Friday or Saturday nights.
Any plans to hold a gala grand opening with spotlights, svelte starlets arriving
in limos and the attendant papparazzi were cut short when it was learned that Cambodia's
ten most famous actors and actresses were in Pyongyang gearing up for a film being
produced by Prince Sihanouk.
In any event, the theatre will have cold drinks and candies on sale. Parr says that
he is trying to secure a supply of lollies called Jaffas, which should make Australian
movie buffs feel right at home.
What about popcorn? "I've been asked that question many times," Parr says
with a smile. "We're working on it."