Thursday, 27 June 2013

Royal Cinema, Kampot

The Royal Cinema in the small Cambodian town of Kampot was built during the first half of the 1950s. Whether it was before or after 1953, the year the country gained its independence from France, is unclear as both 1951 and 1955 have been suggested.

For twenty years or so the Royal's programme combined epic and musical Hindi films with martial art movies from Hong Kong, war movies from the Philippines with cowboys and Indians films from the US. However the Royal, like the three other cinemas of Kampot, shut its doors when the Khmer Rouge seized the town in April 1974. The Khmer Rouge regime fell in 1979 after Vietnam invaded Cambodia but the cinema remained shut for several more years as the country became engulfed in a dramatic war between the occupying Vietnamese army and several resistance movements.
The Royal Cinema reopened in 1984 but closed down a few months later in 1986. It was then used to store water containers. However its story does not end there. In 2009 the Royal Cinema was "rediscovered" by US filmmaker and CamboFest founder/co-organizer Jason Rosette. The same year the family who lives within its walls agreed to allow the 3rd CamboFest Film and Video Festival to take place at the historic venue. Sadly it seems nothing has been shown since then, even if the rumour of a possible reopening of the Royal can sometimes be heard.

After 60 years of troubled history, the name of the cinema, in Khmer, has almost disappeared. I am not absolutely sure but I think it says "រាជរោងកុន".

[Royal Cinema]

More traces of painted signs can be seen on the formerly green panel to the left of the entrance.

Location: Kampot / Pictures taken in December 2011


Sam Roberts said...

There's a similar building in Kratie, I've asked on Facebook if anyone can translate the text.


Great to see Mr. Sokun's 'Royal' again - there actually have been several events since the 2009 CamboFest, interested folks pls see

He's now retired and has expressed an interest in hosting even more events there to support his livlihood, interested people can stop by and inquire...