New Movie Draws a Crowd; Director Frets About Piracy

So many people wanted to see “Dek Chou Damden,” the new Cambodian-made action-fantasy movie about a legendary Khmer military commander, that they created a traffic jam in front of the Vimean Tip theater when it opened Saturday.

Such popularity is a problem, given Cambodia’s history of film piracy. Film producers and culture officials were asking Sunday: How long will it be before bootleg copies appear in the markets?

“The only way to protect the copyright on this movie is to keep the original copy in hand at all times,” said Moung Sokhan, deputy director of the Ministry of Culture’s cinema department.

“We are being so careful,” said Sam Vannac, assistant director for Maradak Films. “We monitored every person who worked with us, to make sure they weren’t able to copy it.”

Vimean Tip theater manager Tang Chan Ponleou said he posted security guards at the doors to keep out video cameras.

He said people are paying $1.50 for tickets ($1 for children), steep prices for Cambodia. The theater sold more than 1,300 tickets Saturday. Between 300 and 600 of the theater’s 800 seats were filled at each showing of the 2.5-hour movie, he said.

The Vimean Tip is the only movie theater operating in Cambodia, down from a high of 33 during the 1960s. Theaters staged a comeback in the 1980s, but were driven out of business by pirated movies and videos.

When Maradak Films finally markets “Dek Chou Damden,” they should stamp each disc with a Ministry of Culture seal to show it is a licensed copy, said Moung Sokhan. But the economics of video piracy are working against those plans. A pirated disc sells for about $3, and the filmmakers may have already lost the war.

One film fan who invited a friend to go see the new picture over the weekend was told: “No, thanks. No need to go. We’ve got a copy here at home.”

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