Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Thongpaijid Rama Theater - Uttaradit, Thailand

In bygone eras, if anti-government protests turned riotous it was much easier to avoid confrontation than it is now. All you had to do was duck into a movie theater. Given their ubiquitous presence, chances are you were never more than a Molotov cocktails throw from the sanctuary of a cinema.

Take for instance the Thongpaijid Rama Theater. It was located smack in the middle of downtown Uttaradit and a two minute walk from either the Uttaradit Rama (see two posts prior) and the Sri Uttaradit Theater (RIP). So if you weren't ready to face the bullets when things got hot, there were three viable choices for refuge within a few hundred meters of each other.

The Thongpaijid Rama is still owned by the Thongpaijid family, but now they sell furniture instead of movie tickets.

Front steps serve as display for furniture.

I was very fortunate to meet Ying, daughter of the builders/operators of the Thongpaijid Rama. She very generously told me of the old theater's glory days and allowed me to do a little exploring of its inner sanctums.

Imagine that it's 1980 and the front steps of the Thongpaijid Rama are strewn with movie patrons, not furniture.

This is the view from the 2nd floor balcony. The flooring is actually a new ceiling built over the lobby to cut down on the energy bill and keep birds from nesting up there. From this view you can see the grandeur that it once was, with giant columns supporting a 10 meter- high vaulted ceiling.

Old poster cases still mounted on the wall. The auditorium was on the 2nd floor and boasted of the biggest screen in all of Uttaradit province.

Once reaching the second floor landing, you climbed the short staircase pictured above to enter the largest auditorium in town.

Old trash can with the inscription Thongpaijid Rama

Ying (pictured above) spent much of her childhood in her family's movie theater. She recalled with clairvoyance the crowds before showtime and how the Thongpaijid Rama was "the biggest and best theater in town."

As time passed and ticket sales declined, however, the Thongpaijid family experimented with different business models to prop up the ailing theater. On the first floor, below the main auditorium, they installed a roller skating ring in the mid-1980's. But it was doomed to failure. By that time, transnational electronics companies had unleashed the dual theater killers of video and the home entertainment system en mass. Over the course of the next decade independent movie theaters in Thailand began to fall like dominoes.

The Thongpaijid Rama Theater opened in 1971 or 72 and closed in 1999.

Many thanks to Ying

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