Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Vieng Samay Theater - Vientiane, Laos

Much like the Bua Savan (previous post), the Vieng Samay Theater was once a modern movie mecca in the heart of downtown Vientiane. Like its competitor around the corner, it too screened Thai films that were distributed by Grandma Yamjid, owner of the Thepbanterng Theater in Nong Khai, Thailand (see two posts prior). For the last 10-plus years the Vieng Samay has been nothing more than a facade.

The auditorium of the Vieng Samay has been demolished, leaving only a weedy lot in its wake. But for whatever reason the facade of the theater was spared. From a preservationist standpoint, this is a partial victory. If there is no chance of rehabilitating the theater to its original condition and the costs of maintaining the majority of the structure, even if it's used for other purposes, are not feasible, then at the very least preserving the facade - it's most recognizable feature - is a good thing. With any luck the facade's value will be realized some day and it will be professionally restored. Personally, I think it's one of the more unique theater facades I've seen in this part of the world, if not anywhere.

The sign atop the Vieng Samay Theater features Lao, Chinese and Roman lettering.

Noodle vendors now occupy the space which used to be the lobby.

The old marquee hangs tattered above the entrance.

The remains of the Vieng Samay Theater are literally around the corner from the Bua Savan and there is a hotel directly to the right of it which apparently also used to be a theater. That's at least 3 movie theaters in a relatively small area. Aside from those rudimentary bits of data, I wasn't able to learn much about the Vieng Samay Theater, but it was obviously once a luxurious place to watch a movie.

9 comments:

  1. In my growing years in the late 50's and early 60's, my parents used to bring here to watch Indian, Thai and Chinese movies. Now I am looking at this place with nostalgia.

    Khamtoun

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  2. I can only imagine what the Vieng Samay was like when you were a child, Khamtoun. This was one of the most unique theaters I have found. Out of curiousity, would you happen to remember the name of the theater which used to be right next to this one?

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  3. there is also another old movie theaterin vientiane, his name is Odeon rama. I must have some picture that i took 3 years ago. If you want to see it , let me know

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  4. Sorry to get back to you so late, but I hadn't noticed you comment.

    I would love to see you photo of the Odeon Rama. Please e-mail me sea.theater@hotmail.com

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  5. The Projectionist said...

    I can only imagine what the Vieng Samay was like when you were a child, Khamtoun. This was one of the most unique theaters I have found. Out of curiousity, would you happen to remember the name of the theater which used to be right next to this one?
    April 26, 2009 9:26 AM

    Yes, its name is Seng Lao

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  6. IS THERE ANY ELSE OPENING CINEMA IN LAOS NOWADAY?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CINEMA THEATHER AND MOVIE INDUSTRY IN LAOS.
    PLEASE EMAIL ME :gmvnfilmservicecorp@gmail.com
    Thanks you

    ReplyDelete
  8. This Vieng Samay Theater facade is a rebuild around 1972. Its a different building back then and the front of the building is not parallel to " Seng Lao (Hotel) Theater " as of today. Its about 15' inward. I have an old photo of it. Let me know if you want to see it. (let me find it first)

    I remembered I went with family to watch a Chinese Martial Art movie when it reopened. We sat on second floor in the back. The new seat was nice and comfy with head rest. The fabric of the seat was beige color with orange embroidered patterns. The screen was huge. All the old theater in Vientiane were huge screens.

    It also has a special isolated room on second floor where you can paid a little extra and listen to original soundtracks of the movie. My friend used to paid and listen to original Japanese soundtracks when he watches Japanese Super Heros movies. although he doesn't understand Japanese. But all the Chinese movies showed in Vieng Samay were in original Chinese soundtracks with Laotian subtitles.

    I used to buy lots of snacks to the movies. All the streets outside were packed with small vendor of snacks. I remembered some old people need to bring sweaters to Vieng Samay to watch movies. The air condition inside can get very cold sometimes.

    Vieng Samay and other theaters will have special showing for 3 days in Chinese New Year. The theaters will give out special showing schedule flyers. It would show around 6 or 7 different movies in different time of the day. All different movies for 3 days. We could gambling and watch movies for 3 days. It was fun!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your great insights. This is very valuable information.

      If you have an old photo of the Vieng Samai I would love to see. With your permission, I would post it on this blog.

      Please write to me at sea.theater@hotmail.com

      Best,
      Phil

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