Monday, May 4, 2009

The Payao Rama Theater AKA Thana Payao Cineplex - Payao, Thailand

Cinema has not been completely eliminated from the list of things to do in Payao city. Thanks to the Thana company, the Payao Rama Theater, a city staple for at least 40 years - 50 by one account - continues to show movies. But that wasn't always the case. In the mid-70's a second, even larger theater opened up in town and put the Payao Rama out of business. It remained vacant until the second theater itself closed down 6 years ago. Then the Thana company, seeing a niche that needed filling, bought the Payao Rama, rehabbed it and gave it a second life as the Thana Cineplax.

Built at a 45 degree angle from the street, the old Payao Rama is the lone place to watch a film on teh big screen in the entire province of Payao at the moment.

Original signage pivoted at a 45 degree angle from the rest of the building to face the street.

Thana has done a great job with this old theater. The interior was tastefully remodeled in the last five years, complete with comfy reclining seats, a new sound system and top-notch projection. The lobby looks like it's likewise had a makeover.

Posters for upcoming films

View of the lobby just before showtime.

The manager was hesitant to let me take any photos of the Thana Cineplex, as is company policy. It took an explanation as to my intentions and letting her see some photos of other theaters I'd photographed before she changed her tune, and only then if I shot from afar. Under no condition, however, was I allowed to bring the camera into the theater during showtime. I left it at the ticket booth.

Night shot of lobby

The lobby after the movie let out and all the customers had gone home. I like this photo a lot.

Another reason I love these old theaters: modern multiplexes in Thailand are seldom ever built in the middle of the town. On the occasion that they are, like a number of them in Bangkok and one in Chiang Mai, they are atop shopping malls and generally designed with the intention of having viewers drive into a parking garage to get there. In other words, the moviegoer doesn't have to touch the streets to get to the theater. Here, on the other hand, after watching the beautifully shot gore fest of Meat Grinder (a Pranakorn Films production, which is a subsidiary of the Thana company) I left the theater and was immediately deposited in the center of a deserted city. The walk back to my hotel, past shuttered shops and restaurants, through the empty streets of Payao, gave me the opportunity to digest what I had just seen unburdened by the responsibilities of driving. As contrived as it may seem, that solitary stroll, amplified by the lingering effects of cinema, was both exhilarating and sobering at the same time.

For the 60 baht price of a ticket I was given a theater going experience that I'll never forget.

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