Lost Cinemas

In the 60s and 70s Cambodia had a thriving cultural scene. In the movie industry this lead to the release of Cambodian movies. Next to that, foreign productions, like Chinese movies have always been popular. For that reason a big number of cinemas, or actually cineplexes, have been built. This provided the city of Phnom Penh with many interesting and remarkable buildings.

But nowadays Phnom Penh is changing rapidly. It is quickly developing economically, often driven by foreign investments. The cinema buildings are disappearing, often not having been used for a while as cinemas, but instead as a motorcycle parking spaces, karaoke clubs or shops. Generally spoken, there are little funds to maintain the buildings or to renovate them. More and more have been or are to be demolished, often replaced by big apartment blocks or office buildings. Movies in modern Cambodia are seen in malls.

In March 2017 Monsoon Photography started collaborating for a series with the RoungKon Project, a group of mainly architecture students who document the cinemas before they get lost forever. It's a battle against time: some of the cinemas you see here have already been demolished or closed in recent years. The RoungKon Project mapped 33 cinemas in Phnom Penh and have the aim to document cinemas in other Cambodian towns as well. On October 20 2017 some of these pictures featured in the 'City for All/Space for Architecture' conference at FCC the Mansion.

More information about the RoungKon Project can be found on their page (click here) and in this Phnom Penh post article (click here). You can also follow them on their Facebook page (click here).

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phnom penh - hemakcheat 

The Hemakcheat Cinema is located on Street 130 . Built in the 50s, the theatre use to seat over a 1000 visitors, until the Khmer Rouge. The cinema used to be owned by Ly Bun Yim, a well-known Cambodian filmmaker. Since 1979 until nowadays, it has housed many low income people who moved into the building for settlement. On the ground floor the space is used for parking of motorcycles.


phnom penh - lux cinema

Located along Norodom Boulevard, Lux was one of the most famous cinemas in Phnom Penh. Originally constructed in 1938, it has a total of 650 seats. Cine Lux was used until the early 1990s for variety of activities including film screening and Theatre performances. It re-opened in 2001 after renovations. In recent years it showed Thai horror movies, Khmer-dubbed. For a long time, Cine Lux was the only old cinema that has survived in Phnom Penh and still showing movies. But in 2017 it closed, and it's not known what the plans with the building are yet.


phnom penh - chenla theatre

The Chenla State Cinema is located on the corner of the Samdech Monireth Blvd and the Mao Tse Toung Blvd. The architects were Lu Ban Hap (chief architect of Municipality of Phnom Penh) and his assistent Chhim Sun Fong. The name comes from a pre-Angkorian kingdom.

The concept was very similar to Lu Ban Hap’s diploma project in Paris, which was for a dance academy. The cinema eventually ended up accommodating 800 people. The cinema was inaugurated with the second Phnom Penh International Film Festival on the 14th of November 1969.

After being abandoned during the Khmer Rouge, it was renamed as the 'Phnom Penh Theater' in 1979. In 2002 it was renovated by the Canadia Bank, which added a building to the site, and it became part of the Phnom Penh Cultural Centre.


phnom penh - capitol cinema

The Capitol Cinema was built in 1964 by the famous Khmer architect Vann Molyvann. He was one of the leaders of a hybrid French-trained, Cambodian-influenced movement referred to as New Khmer Architecture. It's located on the corner between of St.148 and St.19. 


The exterior is largely unchanged. The roof is typical for Molyvann's architecture. The building is not used as a cinema anymore. In recent years it served as a table tennis and billiard hall. But also this function of the building didn't survive the passing of time. By now only a skeleton of the roof is left.


battambang - battambang cinema


battambang -prasat meas cinema


kampot - 7 makara cinema