Monday, October 18, 2010

The Win Cinema - Toungoo, Bago Division, Myanmar

If, as it states in the Bauhaus school of architecture's manifesto, "the ultimate aim of all creative activity is the building," then it is only natural that the movie theater represents the height of creative function. What else can be expected when combining the "ultimate aim [in] creative activity" with the most dynamic of all the visual arts, film? By this definition the movie theater ought to be the most interesting building in town.

The Win Cinema, one of many elegant art deco cinemas in Myanmar.

I regret not putting the above theory to the test in Toungoo, where aside from a pilgrimage to the town's lone remaining movie theater, I did little exploring. One thing I did pick up on, however, was that the ethnic diversity; the melting-pot qualities typical of cities in lower Myanmar were absent up here. I was closing in on the central dry zone, cultural breadbasket of the Bamar (Burmese), where I found immediate solace in the Win Cinema.


Cut-out lettering on the pitch of the facade.

Show times beside the entrance

The ticket stand, concessions and entrance to the auditorium are accessed down a narrow corridor along the far left hand side of the Win. Movie posters are tacked to the wall and bicycles belonging to Win patrons and employees line the perimeter. Prior to show time, this is where everybody had congregated to chat and examine the posters on the wall.

Bikes and posters

Man buys ticket

Lining up

Tickets and their sellers

Concessions were sold by this woman and her husband. The couple arrived about 20 minutes before showtime, set up their products, sold a few things, and then packed up and left once the show started.

Usher sits next to auditorium entrance.

Wooden benches make up seating options on the first level.

Looking towards rear of balcony

Projectionist in his room, along with two old school, limelight powered projectors still in operation. The Win was the first theater outside of Yangon I found not using LCD projectors.

Looking out from auditorium into the corridor, after the lights had dimmed.

Looking towards the street from the corridor.

This passing novice found it hysterical that anybody would want to shoot a movie theater.

The Win Cinema is a nice one, indeed. Seeing it made my brief sojourn in Toungoo a worthwhile one. Its streamlined, art deco facade makes it stand out crisp among the surrounding architectural mundanity. While doing my thing at the Win, verbal exchanges between theater staff and myself were minimal on account of language barriers, but they were able to communicate that the Win was built in 1961 and that it contains a grand total of 783 seats. These days, however, business has cooled off significantly, with memories of packed houses growing more distant by the day. At its cinematic peak Toungoo had three functioning theaters, but the other two have since ceased to be. The Win hangs on, though. Yes, it hangs on..


(Whitford, Frank. Bauhaus. Thames & Hudson, 1984, p. 11)

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