Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thepnakon Rama Theater -- Nakon Phanom, Thailand

Like many stand-alone theaters in Thailand, the Thepnakon Rama is situated in a commercial plaza.

The street-side marquee, now a mere vestige, still beckons weary beings to escape the scorching Isan sun and doldrums of daily life.

View from the side

Three years too late, and the Thepnakon Rama is a parking lot. An unfortunate fate for such an imposing building, but better than a date with the demolition man. I was lucky to meet Mr. Chayan, a lifelong resident of Nakon Phanom, standing in front of the dormant theater as I perused the grounds in search of a nice angle. Mr. Chayan, owner of a small jewelry shop on the opposite side of the plaza, recalled that the theater was built in the early 1970's and that it screened films until only a few years ago. When I told him that I was taking photos of old theaters for archival purposes, he volunteered to drive me around town in search of the other old cinemas he remembered. Sadly, the others had long ago met their demise.I am nonetheless grateful to Mr. Chayan for his hospitality and the sympathy he showed towards this odd project.

There used to be a total of four theaters in the city, including the Thepnakon Rama and the Sri Thep Cineplex, which is still operating.

Frontal frame


Side paneling

Gutted and turned into a parking lot.

The balcony

Poster for the eternal classic "Batman and Robin" lingers on.

The Thepnakon Rama closed down 3 years ago.


  1. I lived in NKP from 1982 til 1985 and saw films at the Thepnakon fairly often. Many theaters built in that era offered large, clunky headphones in the last few rows of the theater for those wanting to listen to the original soundtrack. The Thep was great in that there was a separate soundroom upstairs next to the projection booth. There were probably 30 seats but we were always alone and would often take in some Gai Yang and a couple of cold beers and have a fine time watching a film in English. This was long before the days of IBC, UBC or whatever so the opportunity to listen to English for a couple of hours was a treat.

    We became friends with the projectionist and if there was a "Midnight Show" which required that you exit and purchase another ticket, he would tell us to just sit quiet and we didn't have to pay for the second ticket.

    The Sri Thep was newer but didn't have the sound room so we never went there. There are a couple of good Kat Gata shops across the street from the Srip Thep though.

  2. That's a really great piece of history! I've never heard of a theater that provided headphones to listen to the orignal soundtrack.

    This place was enormous, too. It must have made for an interesting viewing experience, to say the least.

  3. A lot of the places in Essan were built during the war in Vietnam. While the vast majority of the GIs lived on base, many would rent a place in town to use when they had leave. In addition, there were many "technicians", company reps, etc who lived in town. NKP was a good sized base so would merit a sound room. I know at least one of the theaters in Sakon had the head phones before I was there but could never find them when I visited. From what I understand, Udorn and Ubon had a mix. The sound rooms in Ubon were no longer used by the early '80s but there was at least one place that still provided head phones.

    Has nothing to do with theaters but there were still many vestiges of the GI presence in Essan in the '80s even though the last of the GIs left in the fall of '76. The place I rented in NKP in '82 was next door to a boarded up hole in the wall bar where you could barely make out the sign that once said "Lung Tom's Cabin".

    The ThepNakorn also put on live shows. I don't remember any rock or pop bands there but some of the slapstick comedy troupes sometimes put on shows and I vaguely remember something almost like Saturday matinees for the kids with lots of balloons and clowns and the like. I never made it to those but I do remember the sound trucks advertising them.