Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lao Chaleun Cinema - Savannaket, Laos




Lao Chaleun translates to Prospering Laos

A tourist brochure for Savannaket city dated the Lao Chaleun Cinema to the 1930's. Since most of it is concrete, I find that hard to believe, but I know very little about architecture or what building materials were used when. Nonetheless, this was was the most edifying abandoned theater I've found to date.

I was told that it was built with the intention of being the anchor for the entire two rows of commercial and residential buildings that it's attached to, an interesting concept in itself. An entire neighborhood built around a cinema!

It is divided into two separate sections. The facade and facilities attached to it face onto Kaisone Phomivan Road, while the main auditorium is in another building in a back alley. A long corridor leads from the front entrance to the auditorium in the rear, while the two sections are connected by a patio bridge. I wish I knew more about that front section. What was it used for? It looks like there was commercial space there. Maybe the theater's offices, or concessions?



Entrance to the auditorium.





Patio bridge straddles an alley, connecting the facade section and auditorium.

Second floor looking across the patio bridge towards the front building.

Presumably the ticket window


View from the balcony

View of balcony, projector's window on the back wall.


Projectionist's room

That's right, despite the fact the Lao Chaleun has been closed for over 30 years there are still old reels of film lying around.

The temptation to take one of these old reels was there, but just as I was about to do it I recalled the curse of King Tut's tomb.



I've been told this might be the Thai actor of yesteryear Sombat Chareun in the frame. Hard to tell.

Does anybody know what this says?

Hammer and Sickle stencil on wall of the projectionist's room.

This really is a classic structure. Unfortunately, a restoration job seems unlikely anytime in the near future, and in it's present condition I can't see it holding up too much longer. The least we can hope for is that somebody or some entity has the foresight to preserve the facade. After all, it is advertised on the Savannaket guide brochure as a site of historic significance in the city. You'd think somebody would step up and save the Lao Chaleun.

7 comments:

  1. Many thanks. By the way, while you're here, any idea what the writing in that one frame of film says. I think it's Japanese.

    Projectionist

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  2. this is amazing!
    i love your site, and this is my favorite theatre you've featured yet.
    you're right, the text is japanese, and i believe it reads 貞操の嵐 (storm of chastity), which is a film from 1959.
    also of note (though it seems like maybe you can speak thai/lao) the text beneath the hammer & sickle graffiti reads "saep sabai" or "pain is good"!
    as for the actor, i've never heard of a guy named 'sombat chareun' unless they were perhaps thinking of singer suraphon sombatcharoen (and i would say it doesn't look much like him)
    another famous "sombat" would be actor สมบัติ เมทะนี (sombat methani), which seems more likely (though unfortunately it doesn't look a great deal like him, either!)

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  3. Thanks Peter, and thanks again for all the info and corrections. As a matter of fact, if anybody out there knows anything about these theaters that I have left our, or gotten wrong, please feel free to write in.

    I have heard that after 1975 some of the theaters in Vientiane were nationalized and showed a good deal of Soviet films that were heavy on communist propaganda. I wonder if the same is true for the Lao Chaleun. A guy living near the theater, however, told me it's been closed since the regime change. The owner moved to America.

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  4. the hammer and sickle stencil actually reads "saen sabai" แสนสะบาย. a lot of lao letters look very similar to but are (misleadingly) slightly off of their thai counterparts. although the idea of 'pain is good' is pretty awesome, in a very 'hammer and sickle' way...

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  5. ขอบคุณมากครับที่ไปถ่ายรูปมาให้ดู เห็นรูปโรงหนังลาวเจรีญแล้วผมแทบน้ำตาร่วง ที่นี่ผมเคยมีอดีตตอนวัยเด็กครับ จำได้ว่าตอนผมอายุ 5ขวบ(ปี1963) พี่สาวพาไปดุหนังที่ลาวเจริญนี่แหละครับ จำไม่ได้ว่าตัวเองซนไหม ตอนหนังเลีกผู้คนเดีนออกจากโรงอย่างแออัด เราออกทางประตูข้างด้านซ้ายที่เป็นที่จอดจักรยาน มอเตอร์ไซด์ ตอนนั้นเขากำลังซ่อมแซมพอดี ผมหลุดหลงจากพี่สาวครับ เลยเดีนแยกออกจากขบวนคนแล้วเข้าไปในที่จอดรถ เพื่อดักรอพี่สาว โอ มายกกอ๊ต ผมเดีนไปเหยียบตะปูที่เขาตอกใส่แผ่นไม้ ตะปูทะลุรองเท้าแตะยางเข้าไปในเท้าผมลึกมาก(จำไม่ได้ว่าทะลุเท้าผมไหม) ผมร้องไห้ลั่นเลยครับ ........ นี่แหละครับความหลังที่ผมเคยไปสร้างวีรกรรมไว้ที่โรงหนังลาวเจริญ
    ว่างๆจะแวะเข้ามาเยี่ยมยามใหม่นะครับ ขอบคุณ

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  6. The last picture says: Saen Sabai

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