Why Cambodian Movies Should Not Limit Themselves to Local Theaters

If you start reading this article, thinking of me as a movie expert, stop right here! First, I want you to know that what you’re going through below, is actually from my “pure” experience! Here, I’m not saying that Cambodian past movies are bad or not worth “exporting”. But let’s try and see things from the edge of our world (if not “wall”)!

1- Exhibitors Rule!

By “exhibitors” here, I meant “movie theaters” or “cinemas” themselves. With all the new titles released every week, local and international, they will only focus on what works best for their income. Are they to blame for their lack of nationalism? Try and put yourselves in their shoes!

2- Theatrical Releases Are A Mere Tip of the Big Iceberg

Here, I don’t disagree that theatrical box office figures somehow determine the returns form other platforms like TV, VOD or ancillary. Come what may, I have already accepted titles with low theatrical turnout, yet bearing big potential profits for non-theatrical rights. How did I know this? My last Filmart experience proved me this phenomenon.

3- Other Platforms Are Claiming their “Rights”

It’s hard to resist the fact that technology has shrunk our screen size to our mobile devices. While the big screens are here to stay, mobile viewing feels more convenient and faster to access these days. So if you were such an online player, you’d do all it takes to secure popular content onto your platform. That is, you’d be willing to even invest in original content so you could control its life, from financing to exhibition!

You may not perceive these realities now. Want it or not, they are coming your way right into the face until you change or adapt. If you think movies know no boundary, artistic or commercial, welcome to the club!

Movie content: Local Vs Foreign

Recently, some actors or film stakeholders have been taken aback when the Ministry of Information (Cambodia) has agreed for local TV channels to broadcast Thai content. I’d say I support this return of Thai drama series to Cambodia, for three reasons, with three conditions.

First, as Cambodia is a free economy, banning Thai films from coming to Cambodia will even sabotage our national image and revenues. Apart from films, Cambodia is partly economically dependent on Thailand in other aspects. 
Second, the “temporary” blocking was actually caused by a minority of conservative people. I understand that that Thai star may have spoiled our history. Yet, her case was so individual that we could even have only asked her to apologize in public or media. As a result, I could see that the majority of Cambodian people have kept watching Thai drama series on DVD or Internet. So people will always look for quality content, no matter where it comes from or what it takes them.
Third, in terms of arts, we should be open enough to learn from our Thai or foreign counterparts. Of course, “learning” here doesn’t mean “blindly copying”. It just refers to “using their best practices with our original content”. Competition makes us stronger and eve more creative. It’s pointless to support mediocre products just for the sake of nationalism. Instead, our Cambodian fellows should find more ways to break through the barriers of our local audience. At the moment, I can see the local content is bouncing back. So worrying (too much) about other people’s won’t help us move forwards.

Still, there are three conditions that I think Ministry of Information (or even other stakeholders) can apply to help. On one hand, local “quality” content should be prioritized or encouraged on Cambodian TV channels. On the other, you can make it hard for Thai TV series to penetrate the Cambodian market with more taxes or dubbing quota. I knew these have been applied in some countries already. Also, sponsors of Cambodian TV series can enjoy special discounts from Cambodian channels. Which means if the same companies sponsor Thai or foreign series, they will pay 100% rates. 
I know these conditions may have some flaws and I’m willing to receive your feedback. Meanwhile, my collective Kon Khmer Koun Khmer is planning to distribute short films to TV.