Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Pata Theater - Bangkok, Thailand

Marquee for the Pata Theater, now devoid of lettering, hangs above the parking lot entrance beside the Pata Department Store. The theater was on the other side of the parking lot.

The Pata Theater has the distinction of being the prototype for the shopping mall multiplex in Thailand. Sadly, I have no evidence to support this statement other than my own conjecture. Given that it is part of the Pata Department Store in the Pin Klao neighborhood of Bangkok, a relatively older shopping complex of this sort in the city, it stands to reason that this was one of the earlier amalgamations between mall and movie theater in the country.

As Thailand sought to enrich itself by selling off its natural resources, developing light and heavy industries and opening itself to tourism, many older working and living arrangements began to change. In the modern society that proceeded, time became of the essence for many. By the 1980's, the time-saving combination of shopping and movie-going had proved successful. It marked the beginning of the end for the stand-alone theaters across the country and the rise of the multiplex conglomerates, which have dominated the movie theater industry in Thailand ever since.

The Pata Theater is located behind the Pata Department Store. It stands separate from the department store, which technically makes it a stand-alone.

As you may have guessed from the photo, the theater is closed and it's in the process of being converted into a badminton hall.

50 baht per ticket for a double feature. Cheap!

According to the editor of Bioscope magazine, the first actual multiple screen theater in Thailand was built in Ubol Rachathani and called the Nevada Cineplex. Moreover, the now defunct New World Department Store at the intersection of Prasumeru and Sam Sen Roads in the Banglamphu section of Bangkok apparently had a movie theater in it. So although the Pata Theater might not have been a first of any kind, it still represents an early form of what would later come to comprise the vast majority of movie theater forms in Thailand -- the characterless, yet convenient shopping mall multiplex.


  1. Many of the older department stores around Bangkok had cinemas. Some have been taken over by the present-day chains, others have been converted to other uses. Pantip Plaza at one time had a cineplex, I'm told by native Bangkokians.

    I'm guessing Ubon's Nevada Cineplex opened during the '70s boom years? Whenever, it obviously snuck under the radar of leaders in the mainstream cinema industry in Thailand, who generally give credit for the first multiplex to Vichai Poolvaraluck and the EGV chain, which opened the EGV Rangsit in Future Park on the outskirts of Bangkok in 1994. But then perhaps that development is further distinguished by being the first shopping center anchored by a multiplex in Thailand, setting the tone for other developments. Rather than being just a part of the mall and large department stores, the multiplex is the focus, with smaller shops and restaurants gathered around it.

    Either way, the stand-alone cinemas have a hard time competing with such one-stop-shops that represent an evening of parking, dining, bowling, karaoke and a movie all under one roof.

  2. Thanks for that, WK.

    I agree, the shopping mall multiplexes evolved from older stand-alone theaters that were built in or around the grounds of open-air fresh markets. Others were built in out door shopping plazas and similar retail areas. In small towns they were almost exclusively found around markets. This structural/functional change from neighborhood stand-alone to shopping mall multiplex occurred as more people began driving cars.

    True it is, the newer shopping mall multiplexes are as comfortable as they are convenient, at least in terms of combining multiple activities in one building. Economically, they make more sense. But in terms of style, character and the socio-cultural importance of movie theaters to their localities, the multiplexes can't hold a candle to stand-alones. Hence the blog.

    PS An Apex-owned stand-alone (which I believe was called the Pantip Cinema) was torn down to make way for Pantip Plaza.