Monday, April 13, 2009

The Sri Thep Cinema (AKA Thana Phrae Cineplex) Phrae, Thailand

The Sri Thep Cinema on San Meuang Luang Road.

It was owned and operated as part of the Thana Cineplex chain from the late 1990's until 2007.

It's now a tenement.
"Nobody is interested in watching movies in these old theaters anymore." A stark and blanketing statement from a long time neighbor of the Rong Pappayon Sri Thep. "'New is better,' is how they all think nowadays. That's why everybody goes to the Mark Four if they want to see a movie; it's new and easy."

Apparently the Thana Company thought so too, hence their abandoning the old Sri Thep Cinema. for their new digs at the Mark Four department store on the outskirts of town. A big part of this move, however, had less to do with the 'old vs. new' sentiments of the theater patrons as it does with the reality of recent economic trends and demographic shifts.

Car ownership in Thailand has skyrocketed over the last 15-20 years and this has led to higher traffic congestion in urban areas. Coupled with the fact that the wealthier segments of the population have vacated the down towns in favor of suburbia, creating a dependency on the car for reaching their every destination, congested city centers are simply less appealing places for busy suburbanites with higher disposable incomes to drive to. It's much more practical to drive out of one's gated community, down the 6 lane superhighway, into the such-and-such department store and park in their secured lot than go all the way into the narrowness of downtown and compete for parking. And if you can satisfy your shopping and entertainment needs in one big climate controlled environment, all the better.

In a purely utilitarian way it all makes perfect sense. But on the same token it marks the loss of a certain cultural interface which played a strengthening role in modern urban societies; the coexistence and cooperation of divergent segments of the population. Could there be a clearer example of this loss than the tensions that have come to a boil in Thailand over the past 2 years?

Meanwhile, those monuments of cultural heritage which helped shape the more cohesive cityscapes of yesteryear are laid to waste without the blink of eye: the cinema.

The drop gate and stone portion of the facade.

Poster cases devoid of posters.

Anybody want to buy a movie theater in Phrae?

The Sri Thep Cinema opened in early 1970's and closed just a few years ago.

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