Expats Valerie Smith and magician Sean Borland have embarked on a cinema venture that’s looking to fill a hole in the local Siem Reap cinema scene – a movie theatre showing the latest international releases.
Valerie said the new cinema will be “showing new releases and the stuff that would be out in the big cinemas of the world, but also have days where it’s like 1980s films or foreign films.”
She added, “If you want to be in that cinema environment where it’s the stadium seating and you get the popcorn and you get to watch it on the big screen, then this is where we would like everyone to go.”
Valerie, originally from Alabama, and Sean, from Scotland, decided on the project after recognising that many expats desperately wanted a Western cinema in town.
“It’s a need that needs to be filled,” she said, adding, “Seeing a movie is something that every once in a while I really crave, like a hamburger. Every once in a while I want a really good hamburger and every once in a while I want to watch a movie in a cinema.”
The project – on track to be completed in April - includes a 50-seat lounge style cinema, a café and a garden area.
The site is just off Wat Bo road on a plot of land previously filled by housing, and retaining a soothing garden area decorated by trees and pathways.
Situated east of the river, the cinema owners are aiming to draw crowds away from the centre of town.
“We always have to go to Old Market where everything is, but the expansion I believe is coming across the river to Wat Bo. I want to give people the option to come over here,” Valerie said.
For Valerie, previously a technology specialist, and Sean, a magician, the journey so far has been “a very interesting process”. They’ve had to cope with organising details such as electricity, drainage, flooding, and soundproofing.
They are renovating an old building to transform it into the cinema and have been meticulously going over every detail which in itself has taken at least two months.
“But once we hit the green light, the contractor says it should be two months to completion,” Valerie said. “We’re working with local Khmer contractors which has been a really fascinating and rewarding experience in itself.”
If all goes according to plan, the cinema will be up and running by April.