Monday, September 7, 2009

The Amarin Rama - Sawan Khalok, Sukhothai, Thailand

Three days worth of travel brought me to a few of Thailand's lower northern provinces. My first stop was the city of Sawan Khalok, in Sukhothai province, termination point for an east-west spur of the state railway. Whatever reason the train line was extended out here has seemingly out-lived its time. Sawan Khalok is a pretty quiet place. Nonetheless, the locals were kind enough to point me towards the Amarin Rama - a shell of a 1970's-era stand-alone theater, which despite 17 years of dormancy and neglect is still in relatively good shape. It was built in 1976.

The space in front of the Amarin Rama is used as a dumping ground.

Spirit shrine in front of the theater.

The Amarin Rama is located in a now-economically depressed commercial plaza. This shot is from the side of the theater, looking towards its front. The shop houses that surround the Amarin Rama (in the background of the photo) are almost all vacant.

Front side of the plaza, containing private residences. It's unclear if the residents of these buildings used to operate businesses inside the court.

As the march of progress lays stand-alone theaters like this one to waste, the story of technics and civilization begins to unfold (to cite the name of a Lewis Mumford book which I've never read). The Amarin Rama stands in a commercial plaza. The commercial plaza was once anchored by the theater. It's shops and restaurants catered to the hundreds of daily patrons who spent their free time watching movies there. If you had a business in the plaza, you made a nice living. But once the Amarin Rama was put out of business by home theaters and other technological innovations, the entire plaza died along with it - the creation of an urban waste land.

Ticket booth

Above the ticket window reads, Poonsap Productions

Two old projectors lie rusting away behind the ticket booth.

Lobby waste

Like most of the other stand-alone movie theaters in Thailand, the Amarin Rama was once the most popular place in town. A resident of the Amarin Rama plaza, Mr. Att, recalled that it was packed every day in the 1970's and 80's. And on public holidays, the theater would hold extra showings to accommodate the larger crowds. "Now there's no place in town to see a movie," lamented Mr. Att. "Sawan Khalok used to have a second theater, too, but it's been torn down."

Severe dereliction

Mr. Att went on to explain how the builder of the Amarin Rama and the plaza it's in has since moved to Phitsanulok city, in search of more fertile ground for residential/commercial property development. Apparently he is responsible for a similar plaza there. If it's the one I think it is, where the Rama Phitsanulok stands, then it's safe to say that this developer has - quite unintentionally - created two urban dead-zones. Both plazas and the theaters look strikingly similar.

The Amarin Rama Theater has since been seized by Siam Commercial Bank and is seeking a buyer.

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