Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hong Nang Bua Savan - Vientiane, Laos

Before the May 17th, 1975 communist victory in Laos, Grandma Yamjid (find a brief bio of her in the prior post) distributed Thai films from Nong Khai to a few of the theaters across the Mekong River in Vientiane, Laos. The Bua Savan Theater was one of them.

Facade, palm tree and classic free-standing sign.

After the withdrawal of US-backed forces and the collapse of the royal regime, relations between Laos and Thailand melted down and trade slowed to a trickle. Among the items no longer entering Laos included Thai and American films. In their absence Laotian cinemas began to feature films from Russia, India, Vietnam and other communist countries.

Looking towards the front door, one section of which has been kicked in.

Now a shadow of its former self, the Bua Savan Theater still stands imposingly in the heart of Vientiane, a bi-level, single screen giant of yesteryear. Unfortunately the gaping hole in the roof over the auditorium, large enough to fit a mid-sized car through, suggests it won't around too much longer.

Looking towards the street from the trash strewn lobby.

Among the garbage littering the theater grounds, a discarded bra lies limpid, perhaps hinting that the abandoned Bua Savan has found new life.

An old poster case, still containing lobby cards from past films.

Presumably the last feature the Bua Savan showed, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3". What a pathetic way to go out!

Lobby card for what I think is an Indian film, though it's Thai name translates to "Partial Heaven."

Another lobby card.

There was nobody around who could give me any details about the Bua Savan Theater when I visited it. I don't know when it was built, though I can guess it closed in the mid to late 1990's, a few years after Laos set out on a gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment. A restructured economy, open to freer trade could have opened the door for an influx of cheap imported electronics, like TV's and VCR's, resulting in the shrinkage of the Lao movie theater industry and closure of the Bua Savan.

But fear not, there are newer, albeit less charming theaters in Laos these days. Vientiane has one in a shopping center and Pakse, the southern-most Lao city, has one above a bowling alley. There might even be more that I'm not aware of. But to be sure, none of the new ones can so much as hold a candle to the Bua Savan.


  1. thts great man. Teenage mutant ninja 555 dam.

    The partial heaven is actually biased(ลำเอียง)

    keep the good work dude.

  2. Thanks for the correction. Hopefully see you one of these days in Krungthep Mahanakon.

  3. Great photo project about movie theater in Laos. I used to go to this theater and see many great western, Thai, Chinese, Indian movies. Too bad time has passed and there seem to be no market for it any longer.

    Lao born,

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