Friday, February 12, 2010

Ode to the Odeon Rama - By Vince T

I don’t remember exactly when the Odeon Rama opened, but it was the last theater built in Vientiane in the late sixties or early seventies. I used to live nearby. It was the biggest and most beautiful theater in town, with comfy, red velvet seats.
Like all countries in Southeast Asia at that time, Indian and Chinese movies were popular among the local people. It was there that I discovered Bruce Lee, Bollywood and my favorite of all, the Monkey King movies, based on the classical Chinese novel “Journey to the West”.
They also played some Thai movies.
I remember one night when my parents brought me to see a French comedy starring Yves Montand and Louis de Funes. The atmosphere was strange to me that night. The theater was full of French people. It was the first time that I saw such a place filled with Europeans; so many white faces in one room. That night, the Odeon Rama was transformed into a movie theater near Odeon Place in Paris.
The Odeon Rama was one of my childhood playgrounds. My cousin and I used to hang around the theater grounds. One afternoon, we tried to sneak in through the back door. Just as we were about to enter, a woman's shrill voice yelled after us. We were caught. It was my auntie, standing angrily above us. We felt so ashamed. Now we laugh when we share this old souvenir together.
I left Vientiane in 1975 and moved to France. In 2006 I went back to Laos for the first time and stayed in a hotel near the Mekong River. One morning, I tried to find the path leading to the area where I used to live. Without asking for directions, I rediscovered the route towards my childhood turf. Suddenly, I came upon this dirty old building, the first floor was occupied by all kinds of shops. 'Yes, here I am,' I thought. 'It’s The Odeon Rama; so big and magnificent in my memories, but now so small, dirty and sad.' I asked a man: “is this the Odeon Rama Theater?" He replied yes. Then I switched on my camera and took this picture.

Now, like the Bua Savan Theater (Lotus Paradise in Lao), the Odeon Rama has been destroyed. I was lucky to see it as it took its last breath, the place where I discovered the joy of movies, “l‘amour du cinema”.
Great memoir and photo, Vince. I hope that your contribution will inspire others to send in their own.


  1. Wow, so sad to learn that Bua Savan and Odeon Rama were gone forever. Bua Savan was the brightest place to be in 1950's. I remember walking along the dark streets of Khun Burom and Chao Anou Roads from Thongtoum with my parents to go to watch Thai and Indian movies there. Bua savan was built near the old evening market (long gone too) and it was built long before Vieng Samay. There was another small movie house called Saleum Vieng which was long gone and the people who knew about it were all gone too. Mr. Somchanh Pathammavong started that Odean Rama near the new evening market and he was long gone too. I feel very strange and very sad that everyone I knew were all gone and everything I used to know there is fleeting away and I will be fading away soon too


    1. It's very nice to know there are still people who remember and share these longtime memories. I also grown up in Vientiane ,familiar with all those theatres except Lanxang theatre . It's like living in dream land and fantasy, when enter those theatres . Oh boy, I never thought I would end up living in foreign land.

  2. Khamtoun,
    Thanks so much for your informative and touching comments. It's clear you were quite in tune with Vientiane's past cinema scene. Must have been a totally different, undoubtedly better place than it is now.

  3. Khamtoun, what a sad story to hear from you It seemed to me that you are living in France right? I am living US and it is nice to hear people talk about our past.


  4. I hope that this posting finds you folks. Khamtoun et al - yes, it's very sad to see all of the theaters in VTE all gone. I used to watch movies at the old Bouasavanh (yes - there had been an even older Bouasavanh before the "new one" was built in the 70's). My favorite place to eat was Lao Chaleun (next to Bouasavanh).
    Khamtoun - it is amazing that there are still people who remember Saleum Vieng. My father was the last operator of Saleum Vieng (and Lane Xane Theater next to Lycee Vientiane). Somehow, he managed to keep showing films and live music at Saleum Vieng until 1977 or 1978. There is nothing left at the Saleum Vieng site anymore.

  5. Saleumvieng showed only western movies in French without dubbing in Lao