After two years of renovations and an investment of $2.5 million, the Phnom Penh Cultural Center is now complete. The center aims to showcase traditional Khmer art forms, and officials are hoping it will nurture new interest in circus, drama and Yike musical theater performances.
The Canadia Bank has leased the center and completely funded its restoration. Formerly the Chenla Theater, the center was built in the 1960s, but lay empty from 1979 onward. The municipality handed the building over to a Singaporean company for development in 1997, and that company passed the contract on to the Canadia Bank in 2000, said Nou Kim Chanda, the center’s manager.
The PPCC is located near Phsar Daum Kor, at the intersection of Monireth and Mao Tse- tung boulevards. The theater seats more than 600 people, and has been renovated in keeping with its original Khmer-style design, Nou Kim Chanda said.
Although the theater was originally a cinema, the PPCC’s directors have decided not to screen films at the new cultural center. Phnom Penh is currently enjoying a resurgence in cinema-going, making other art forms a more deserving cause, Nou Kim Chanda said.
Nuth Samony, director of the National Circus School, sees the new center as a potential boost for the art form he teaches. “I believe Khmer circus will become popular if the government gives it financial support,” he said.
Eventually, though, Canadia Bank does hope to make money from the arts center. It will be available to rent for events such as weddings, conferences, parties and VIP meetings, Nou Kim Chanda said.
The center is cooperating with the University of Fine Arts, the National Circus School and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts on a weeklong opening festival over the New Year holiday, featuring traditional drama performances, Yike theater and Khmer circus.
The New Years Festival is at the PPCC from April 11 to April 16. Performances begin at 4 pm every day, and tickets cost 5,000 riel to 20,000 riel.