Friday, October 1, 2010

The Yadagon Cinema - Bago, Myanmar

As a rule of thumb, my objects of affection - movie theaters - receive nothing less than eulogy on the SEA Movie Theater Project. Heaping praise on them is what the site is all about. On occasion, however, a mitigating circumstances will arise warranting exception to the rule. This is one such case. Behold what appears to be the most cryptic, down-right haunted looking (active) theater I've ever laid eyes upon. Ladies and gentleman, Bago's third-string cinema hall, the Yadagon.

The Yadagon Cinema: den of the sinister or just a bit shabby?

The least inviting looking theater ever!

Ticket window

The macabre aesthetic gave me the chills as I moved in for a closer inspection. Old Yadagon Cinema looks like it could use an exorcism, I thought, scanning the place with suspicion. But I soon learned that censure of the theater need not transcend its sinister looks. The on-hand staff was nothing but gracious, permitting me entrance while they prepared for the days' activities. Further diluting my expectant horror was a group of ragamuffin children scampering around the theater grounds; the kids of various vendors and employees of the cinema, growing up in its long shadow.

Cinema kids posing for the camera under the Yadagon's vestibule.

Yadagon employee and recently hung posters

Looking back towards the rear of the auditorium. In the last row, wooden partitions separate every two seats so that couples can have their privacy.

Local Bagoans dated the Yadagon to the early 1960's, perhaps one of the last pre-junta theaters built in the country. Something tells me, however, that this one was late 1960's and State-built. The assumption stems from its location in the town; down a long, straight boulevard dead-ending at one of Bago's famed gilded pagodas. It might have been an attempt to capitalize on proximity to a national historic landmark. I can only guess.

I don't know what kind of crowd it attracts nor whether or not the equipment therein allows for quality entertainment. It was well before show time when I visited. Presumably though, this is Bago's main flophouse cinema. Incidentally, it was also the first of several theaters I found in Myanmar that had bats swooping across the auditorium. A bizarre infestation, but one which I found comforting in a very primitive kind of way.

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