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Provincial cinema plans off

Patrons enter a Major Cinema complex in Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall in December
Patrons enter a Major Cinema complex in Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall in December. THE PHNOM PENH POST

Provincial cinema plans off

A Thai production company looking to build low-budget community cinemas targeting rural audiences throughout Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, has scaled back an ambitious plan.

Kantana Group, which planned to build 1,000 community cinemas in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar by 2014, said it is now only going to build 300 following economic stagnation and political uncertainty in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported.

“With many negative factors, we missed our target of 1,000 cinemas by the end of 2014. Instead, we formed joint ventures with local investors to build only 40 cinemas in some provinces [in Thailand],” Kantana chairman Jaruek Kaljaruek told the Bangkok Post.

Kantana’s presence in Cambodia is currently limited to post-production company Mica Media, which established itself in Kandal province in 1995 and works with Khmer outlet TV5.

Tickets at Kantana’s existing budget cinemas in Thailand currently go at 30 baht, slightly less than $1.

But in Cambodia, which has a GDP per capita five times lower than its Thai neighbour, the larger Cinema companies are targeting the higher-income earners in the Kingdom.

Thai cinema chain Major Cineplex Group opened seven screens at Aeon Mall in June 2014, looking to catch a piece of the rising middle class, and announced further expansion plans for Cambodia in
November.

“We already set plans to cooperate with other new shopping malls, but we need to see how big the malls will be and how many customers will potentially come,” Chy Sila, the local partner of Major Cineplex Group’s Cambodia operation, said in November.

At the Aeon Mall cinema, Cambodians can also buy $12 movie tickets for the country’s first “luxury VIP” screen, complete with plush leather seats and complementary wine, nuts, or popcorn.

The other big name player in Cambodia’s cinema market is Platinum Cineplex, which runs cinemas in Phnom Penh and is partly owned by Major. Platinum is strictly targeting middle-class viewers, such as university students who come in groups, a representative said.

Platinum Cineplex manager Sao Sokny said the Cambodian cinema market still had potential in big provincial towns, but that it might still be too early for such expansion.

“Kantana tried with the low-cost cinema and charging a low fee, but they try it in very remote areas and I am not sure how successful or unsuccessful it was,” said Sokny.

“For me, I don’t think [Cambodia] is ready yet for small provinces,” Sokny said, adding that Platinum was expanding in six weeks to Siem Reap, which currently has no modern cinema.

Nareth Ung, president of the Motion Pictures Association of Cambodia, said community theatres would not succeed unless the government tackled rampant piracy.

“The market’s too small,” he said. “People are just going to go to the coffee shop and pirate DVDs – and the government has no clue.”

Kantana Group and Mica Media did not respond in time for comment.

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