July 9, 2011

Silver screen finally lit


Cambodia’s first official cinema is now open – and it is already racking up the admirers

Inside the Legend Cinema in Phnom Penh.
CAMBODIA’S affinity for film dates back to the Kingdom’s cultural heyday of the ’60s, when over 300 films were produced, and word has it even King Norodom Sihanouk fancied himself as a silver screen star before the French found a better use for his talents.

The industry inevitably declined in the following years but the filming of high-profile films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 helped restore some of the country’s damaged cinematic pride.

Recently, it is another Hollywood blockbuster that has got tongues wagging throughout Phnom Penh, and not just because it’s the latest in a growing line of movies to be filmed here.

This week, Transformers: Dark of the Moon became the first licensed foreign film to be shown on a cinema screen in Cambodia.

The venue was Cambodia’s inaugural Hollywood movie theatre, Legend Cinema, which raised its curtain to the highly-anticipating public for the first time on Thursday July 7, boasting two screens, offering Cambodian subtitles. But, for those who find traditional 2D viewing rather passé, there is another first for the country: 3D viewing.

“It was the first time I’ve seen a movie in 3D, I was amazed, it’s great to finally have a cinema like this,” 19-year-old student Visa Oun said as she left the cinema, still looking rather dazed.

“I live nearby, so will try and visit the cinema regularly, especially when there is a new release.”

The $1.5 million theatre is located within Phnom Penh’s latest shopping complex, City Mall, and comprises 800 seats, with tickets starting from $4, Michael Chai, Director of the theatre’s distributor, Westec Media Limited told 7Days.

“Cambodian residents no longer have to fly to Thailand and other neighbouring countries to see the latest Hollywood hit, they can have the same experience, for the same price in Cambodia, now,” he added.

As the titles began rolling, an impromptu round of applause spread through the theatre and Chai’s colleague, Simon Choo heralded the success of the launch.

“We had people queuing up for tickets before we even opened, we have seen an extremely positive response,” he said

“We will do our best to continue bringing the latest 3D films to the theatre, and hope to reach all corners of the community.”

With blockbuster season in full swing, following up the inevitably successful Transformers 3 will be the latest Kung-Fu Panda and X-Men installments.

However, a minor concern is the competition Legend Cinema faces from the large number of movie-watchers at home. The culture of purchasing pirate DVDs is one of the main reasons behind the current lack of cinemas in Cambodia, Chai says.

“There was a similar situation in Malaysia 10 years ago. It was the piracy capital of the world, and only four or five local films were released each year, but some now gross more than $1million there.
“This could be the catalyst for success in Cambodia’s film industry.” 

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