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With Kingdom’s film sector in peril, projectors are ready to roll again

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Cambodia’s cinema projectors have been switched off since April due to measures to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. AFP

With Kingdom’s film sector in peril, projectors are ready to roll again

As industry insiders offer dire warnings of continued closures, movie players outline strategies to safely reopen Cambodia's shut down cinemas.

People are looking forward to a return to their favourite entertainment venues as Cambodia reopens cautiously after measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with cinemas still temporarily shuttered, the closures are taking a huge toll on the Kingdom’s once vibrant movie sector, a major industry player told The Post.

“We are down to a skeleton staff of 30 per cent of pre-outbreak levels, while cinemas in Cambodia are currently running at around 30-50 per cent.

“They need to be paid, and without income we cannot last more than four months – and we are now approaching that,” said Lao Phany, the general manager of the Kingdom’s leading film distributor Westec Media Limited.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Westec Media Limited general manager Lao Phany. Photo supplied

With movie houses in neighbouring Vietnam having reopened on May 9, with Thailand and Laos following suit at the beginning of last month, Phany said she hopes the Cambodian government will allow the Kingdom’s movie houses to start up their projectors again soon.

“Safety is obviously of paramount importance. Capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing, while staff and cinema-goers will be required to wear face masks.

“We understand the government’s caution, but the ongoing closure is drastically harming cinema chains, such as Legend Cinemas and Major Cineplex, and distributors.

“Businesses in associated sectors, including food and beverage and transport, are also being affected. The ripple effect is huge,” Phany said.

Attention was drawn to reports that the cinema industries in both China and the US are facing likely crises due to the affects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey from the China Film Association has warned that 40 per cent of cinemas in the Asian giant could go out of business.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A demonstration of seating arrangements and precautionary measures to be in place when cinemas eventually reopen. Photo supplied

Millions of Chinese have enjoyed watching films online during cinema closures thanks to a wide range of streaming services, and thousands of cinemas could close permanently as a result, the BBC said.

There are now more than 12,000 cinemas in China, according to market research firm IBISWorld. But four out of 10 said they “are very likely to close” in the near future, the BBC reported the China Film Association survey as finding.

This could mean nearly 5,000 cinemas going bust as a result of the pandemic.

In the US, AMC Theatres, the world’s biggest cinema chain, said last month that it has “substantial doubt” it can remain in business after closing locations across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.

AMC Theatres, which closed its cinemas earlier this year, expects to have lost between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion in the first quarter of this year.

Phany said the Kingdom’s burgeoning movie industry was also in danger.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cinemas have used the lockdown to thoroughly clean their premises. Photo supplied

“The brakes are being put on the development of cinema in Cambodia. We need to get the industry out of the danger zone,” said Simon Choo, executive director of Westec Media Limited.

With cinemas using the lockdown to thoroughly clean their premises and movie schedules having been put in place, the Kingdom’s movie theatres are all set to reopen their doors to action-starved film buffs.

“The key genres we are focusing on are horror, romance, action and comedy. A mixture of local and foreign titles, 70 per cent will be movies held back due to the outbreak, while 30 per cent will be re-runs.

-“We are ready to entertain Cambodia again – while making sure safety precautions projectorsare in place – with the eagerly anticipated Disney blockbuster Mulan expected next month. We are just waiting for the green light,” said Phany.

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