Saturday, March 13, 2010

The O.K. Rama - Suphanburi, Thailand

Photos of the O.K. Rama were buried deep inside my computer's hard drive, undisplayed on account of having no back-story data for added color. So in lieu of hard facts, here's some peripheral ones which might relate.

Spurred on by export-driven agricultural expansion and a budding manufacturing sector, stand-alone movie theaters mushroomed throughout Thailand during the 1960's and 70's. But by the early 1980's, construction of these movie megaliths slowed significantly, ending an 80-year run of architectural creativity in cinema form. Trends of the time were dictating multiple functions under one roof, catalyst to the scaled-down "mini-theaters" which began to open in department stores across the country. The marriage of department store and mini-theater was short lived, however, as the high-powered, high-consumption pact of multiplex theater and shopping mall grew to envelop the middle and high-end retail sector in all the major Thai markets. I don't think there's a single theater operating inside a department store anywhere in Thailand these days.

O.K. Rama in its plaza confines

Without having heard a single word on its history, I'm inclined to believe that the O.K Rama was a later model stand-alone theater; maybe one of the last to go up in Thailand before they started building them in department stores. Thai theaters that were built as part of residential/commercial plazas during the 1970's have a stand-outish quality compared to the surrounding buildings, captured most poignantly in the frequent use of imposing "brutalist" architecture. The O.K. Rama, however, is on the subtle side of design compared to the surrounding plaza, blending almost completely in with the adjoining buildings. A more humble look combined with the good condition of the plaza makes me think the O.K. Rama is a product of the early 1980's, right about when they stopped building stand-alone movie theaters. But I could be totally off the mark about that.

Tarp over sign

The O.K. was bought up by Thana Cineplex a number of years before it shut down, one of two theaters in Suphanburi operated by the medium-sized theater chain. The other was the Fa Siam. Had I been just one year earlier I would have had the chance to sit back and take in a flick at this late addition stand-alone movie theater. Now it's yet another empty void where there once was a neighborhood fun factory.

The Banhan-Jamsai Tower

On a side note, the above observation tower was another 1980's addition to Suphanburi. Its presence in the tiny town with a low-rise sky-line is a complete anomaly and was probably a complete waste of money, as well. It is pretty cool looking, though.

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