Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Siam Theater - Bangkok, Thailand

The following three posts are dedicated to the remaining movie theaters of the Apex theater chain. Despite having drastically downsized its once vast, Bangkok-based movie theater holdings, Apex continues to operate what are quite likely the regions three most elegant movie theaters.

A welcoming marquee

One of the last first-class stand-alones in Thailand, the Siam Theater is a bulwark of cinematic stability in an area of Bangkok that has seen almost as many physical changes as Thailand has had political coups over the years.

Although the elevated tracks of Bangkok's beloved Sky Train - now a 10 year-old addition to the city - have blocked a full view of Siam's facade, its sign and marquee still stand dignified over the stairs leading to the train platform. For passengers getting off at Siam Station, the orange and white sign of the Siam Theater is a beacon of welcome to the commercial center of the city, and a reminder that you are about to enter the most densely crowded area of town.

Stainless steel poster cases stand in the lower lobby, advertising films playing down the street at the Lido Theater, another Apex operation.

The lower level of the Siam Theater is filled with small retail shops, mostly catering to teenagers.

View of the lower lobby from the upper.

The Siam was the original flagship theater of the Pyramid Company, predecessor to Apex, which at the time was directed by Phisit Thansacha. It opened on December 15th, 1966, with the Thai premiere of Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda. Originally, the theater was slated to be named the Chula Theater, after the 5th king of the reigning Chakri Drynasty. But on the advice of Kukrit Pramoj, one of Thailand's leading statesmen of the time, the royal-evoking name was canned. "Siam" it was dubbed.

Among the Siam's sleek, modern amenities is an escalator; the first in Thailand to be installed in a movie theater.

En route to the 800 seat auditorium with its massive screen. The Siam is a treat to watch movies in.

Ticket booth

As for the Pyramid Company, aside from owning the vast majority of Bangkok's first-class movie theaters, it was also a film production and distribution company - its numerous and architecturally unique theaters serving as outlets for its films. From what I can gather, Pyramid tried to carve out a niche for itself in the Thai film industry of the 1960's and 70's by producing story-driven films, heavy on moral messages. But I'll leave Thai film history to the Thai film specialists.

The Siam Theater is the oldest of Apex's remaining theaters, all of which are in the Siam Square neighborhood of Bangkok. This low-rise pocket of downtown is boxed in by a number of huge shopping malls and hotels. The surrounding malls, like Siam Paragon, MBK and Siam Discovery all contain multiplex theaters in their upper levels. But if you're in the area and in the market for a movie, choose the Siam or either of the other two Apex theaters over those in the malls. Not only will you be doing yourself a favor, but you'll be supporting a company that takes true pride in its venues, in the quality of its services and which is conscious of the fact that it's the keeper of an important slice of Bangkok history.

Before I sign off for today, I should mention that almost all the above background information on the Siam Theater came courtesy of Phuangthong Siriwan (pictured above), the managing director of the Apex company. She was kind enough to spare me an hour of her time for a face to face interview back in May. She's been with Apex for many years and is extremely knowledgeable about the company. Many thanks for that.


  1. Sorry for the blunder in font size and style. Apparently blogger has problems processing cut and pasted font from other programs.

  2. I caught the Japanese animation Ponyo at the Siam today. It's the only way to see Hayao Miyazaki's latest masterpiece - on the big big screen. The Siam is great about bringing in Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong movies with the original soundtrack and English and Thai subtitles and playing them for at least a couple of weeks.

    On my visit today, I noticed that painters were putting a fresh coat on the ceiling in the lobby. Good to see the place being taken care of.

  3. That must have been a real treat! If only an old classic like the Siam remained up here in Chiang Mai.

  4. Looking forward to see your review about Scala Theater,another Apex's large hall.Architecturally exotic cinema...

  5. I am sorry to hear about the destruction of this wonderful old theater. The political turmoil in Bangkok this week resulted in a lot of unfortunate destruction. For an obituary, see this article:

  6. Fantastic post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing. I'm confident, you have a great readers' base already!
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