Sunday, May 10, 2009

"The Golden City Theater" - Payao, Thailand

Monumental is a suitable word to describe the Meuang Thong Rama Theater. It may not be the most ornate, or beautiful movie theater in this part of the world, but it's shear size and the presence it has over its surroundings made it a memorabe place to visit.



Despite its grandiosity, the Meuang Thong Rama only had 800 seats, significantly fewer than some of the smaller theaters in Thailand, though it was ostensibly built with a mind towards the comfort of the theater patron, not how many of them could be squeezed in.

The Meuang Thong Rama Theater was completed and in opened in 1975. Soon thereafter, Payao city's only other theater - the Payao Rama (see two posts prior for more details) - closed its doors, yielding to the modern comforts provided by the Meaung Thong Rama.


Storage room on the second level.

A solidly built example of 1970's contemporary design, the Meuang Thong Rama served as Payao's only operational theater for nearly 30 years. It is now used as a storage depot for plastic recyclables.


Cinematic remnants in a storage room: a reel of film.

The Meuang Thong Rama Theater is now owned by Kongsak Taranisorn (pictured above), but it was the brainchild of Kongsak's father, who designed and built it with the intentions of creating the best theater that money could buy. His dream was realized and for many years the Meuang Thong Rama was the province's premiere movie theater. Its large size, however, eventually contributed to its demise, as electricity costs for such a megalith began to exceed revenue, and audiences opted for the convenience of home viewing over the big screen.

But being the proud inheritor of the Meuang Thong Rama, Kongsak still has hope for a revival of the family gem, albeit with slim prospects. "The people of Payao," he explained, "are a hard sell. They wouldn't support the occasional independent film, or any other kind of alternative performing arts show, which would give the theater some life. I know there are those who would support it simply because of its 'retro' style. If [the Meuang Thong Rama] were in Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai, I'm sure that an audience could be found."

"It's a shame that a great old theater like this can't survive," he added. "I'd love to put it to better use."

The Meuang Thong Rama Theater: a movie theater fortress of yesteryear hoping for new life.

(Meuang Thong translates to Golden City)

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