Friday, March 20, 2009

Rungjid Entertainment - Tak, Thailand

Street-side marquee, while the theater itself is inside a court, a common feature among movie theaters in Thailand.

An undetermined future awaits the Rungjid Banterng Theater (Banterng = Entertain, Rungjid = surname of original owner). The prognosis according to the family that ran it for 40 years prior to its 2006 closing, is that it will likely go the way of its ilk in Thailand.



The family still lives in close proximity to it and uses the court that it's in as a sort of backyard space. When I stumbled in I was met by a snarling dog and three generations of movie theater proprietors. After explaining my reasons for trespassing, I was greeted warmly and offered the grand tour.

The narrowness of the court and the length of the theater made it difficult to photograph

Talking about the old theater brought back fond memories for the grandmother. Her enthusiasm, however, masked a deep sadness. It was clear that the Rungjid was her passion. She recalled the one thousand seats in the auditorium, all wood when her and her husband bought the place from the original owners in the late 1960's.

The son spoke nostalgically of the crowds it drew prior to the advent of DVD's. Since the 1990's the operational costs outweighed the profits, yet they hung on until hope had withered away.

Would-be third generation of movie theater proprietor stands contemplatively in front of the old ticket window. "Tickets were 30 baht for most shows, but if the movie was from a larger production company the price doubled," said the grandmother.

They considered making it into a church, the family being of the Baptist faith, but it's apparently too big and costly. The other choices are to let it slowly rot or to raze it.

Many thanks to the family for so kindly letting me in and making the Rungjid Banterng one the most memorable theaters experiences I've had.

On a side note, Tak once had a total of three theaters. The other two have since been torn down.

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