Monday, April 27, 2009

The Peth Siam Theater - Nong Khai, Thailand

It finally hit me while I was doing research in Nong Khai. A crucial event that fits perfectly with the demise of single-screen, family run movie theaters in Thailand and beyond. The majority of these old theaters in Thailand cranked out their final showings usually in the range of 10 to 12 years ago. Turn back the clock to 12 years ago and Thailand is descending into the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which rocked most of East Asia and caused many an enterprise to collapse. Credit, which was once available to cover the operational costs of many businesses, dried up. Jobs, which once paid enough wages for employees to have a bit of a disposable income, vanished. Many already hurting single-screen theaters, barely surviving the onslaught of home entertainment centers, closed up shop. The Peth Siam Theater was one of the many victims.

But years before big-shot currency and real-estate speculators plunged the economies of East and Southeast Asia into financial Hades, Nong Khai managed to support three independently owned single-screen cinemas, the Peth Siam being one of them.

Built about 40 years ago by the Suksan family, the same family that now runs the Suksan Motel in town, the Peth Siam Theater was a motion picture beackon in this bustling little city on the banks of the Mekong. It boasted of a balcony and apparently the largest screen in town.

Profile shot

Beautiful signage

After it ceased as a movie theater, the owners experimented with turning it into a badminton hall. But according to Dahm, pictured below, "Nong Khai people are lazy and don't like to exercise." The badminton hall failed.

Dahm grew up right next door to the Peth Siam Theater. His father was employed there for many years as the projectionist, and as a little boy Dahm got to see movies for free.

Ladies and gentlemen, my all time favorite free-standing movie theater sign. Imagine that diamond all lit up at night!

The Siam Diamond Theater: It lost its luster about 10 years ago, though in its heyday it most certainly shined.

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