Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Athid Rama - Tha Mai, Tha Maka District, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand

Traversing the western fringes of central Thailand is to witness a crevice of country colored by the agro-industrial complex. Between the seemingly endless fields of paddy rice and sugarcane, gargantuan mills and processing plants pepper the landscape. The wealth created by this industry once brought leisure-time luxury in the form of elegant, stand-alone movie theaters to the lazy towns that flank the Mae Klong River - the region's traditional lifeline. Case in point: Athid Rama of Tha Mai, Kanchanaburi.

A faded modern cinema palace: the Athid Rama.

Lobby shots.

Like almost all Thai theaters built during the 1980's, the Athid Rama was built as the grand anchor of a commercial/residential plaza. Rows of two story shop houses wall in the theater on three sides, creating a delineated retail/entertainment zone. In many regards, this kind of development was the direct ancestor of the shopping mall/movie theater combination that now dominates the urban Thai retail sector.  

Pieces of a dream

Ticket booth with most recent ticket price: 40 baht.


Local residents dated the theater to 1987, which ranks it as a later addition to Thailand's stand-alone movie theater set. One local, an lifelong resident of Tha Mai named Tact, recalled the construction of the Athid Rama and its surrounding plaza:

"This entire plot of land was nothing but jungle before the theater was built," he revealed. "I remember watching workers clear it to make way for this development. It's pretty quiet here these days, but when the theater was up and running, this was a lively area. Full everyday."

As for the name of the theater (Athid means "sun" in Thai), Tact attributed it to the fact that the theater faces east and this is thus graced by the golden rays of the sun for many hours per day.

The light of prosperity, however, did not shine on the Athid Rama for very long. It's been closed for over 10 years. The ground level is now rented out as a snooker hall.

Travel to Tha Mai was made possible by Learn Thai from a White Guy.

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