It comes as a great surprise to many expatriates that Siem Reap actually has a cinema, but it’s less of a revelation that the movie house, which shows only Khmer movies, is suffering from lack of patronage and could be forced to close.
The Baray Andet Cinema in Charles De Gaulle Street on the edge of downtown Siem Reap was opened in mid 2005, and is owned by Touch Bora.
Housed in a fairly nondescript building, the picture house has one screen which runs two daily screenings, at 2.30pm and 7pm, and tickets cost 5000 riel.
On average, about 20-30 people attend a screening but lately that figure has dropped to 10 – or even less.
Cinema manager Hean Kimsak blamed the audience decline on the deterioration of production values and quality of the Khmer films available for screening.
He said many films now only take about a week to complete, with budgets as low as US$3000-$5000.
He compares this to the economic growth periods of 2007 and early 2008, when producers were able to spend $40,000 or more on a production.
Hean Kimsak said, “At that time, the films were very good, and many films attracted audiences of over 100 at our cinema. But recently some customers complain bitterly after having seen a movie.
Originally he was a Pouk Market vendor, but quit his business to help his brother, Touch Bora, the cinema’s owner.
He said that if business doesn’t pick up, the cinema will be forced to shut, adding that foreign films were not the answer because they didn’t attract Khmer customers.
Surely, though, this is an opening for a savvy barang to feed movie-starved expats.