Friday, April 3, 2015

The Sri Burapha Theater - Chanthaburi, Thailand

Chanthaburi's topography lends itself to dramatic building settings. Near its center, the land swells upwards into a sizable hill, texturing the otherwise flatland monotony that spreads west from the Chanthaburi River. In pre-modern times it would be easy to imagine a townscape capped by a mansion of Golden Teak, home to the local noble family, perched stoically upon said hill; a regal view of yonder domain below.

The modern equivalent to the lord's manor came in the form of a temple of cinema, which - though not exactly the most extravagant piece of architecture in this case - must have been quite a site when all aglow in neon, and up wrapped in colorful movie billboards. The Sri Burapha Theater was its name. 

The Sri Burapha Theater at the highest point in Chanthaburi.

The Sri Burapha has all the elements of a Thai movie theater from the 1970's; a concrete frame topped by dimensional rooftop signage; a large, sloping auditorium that probably had a seating capacity of near one thousand; and an open air lobby area, now taken over by food carts and folding metal tables.

Word on the street had it that the dilapidated theater had been out of business for more than 20 years. Now it's little more than a trash pit.

Let there be light beams

A poster case hangs from the wall in the outdoor lobby of the Sri Burapha Theater.

Classic dimensional signage 

Chances are slim to nil that the Sri Burapha will ever find new life as a cultural center or cinema hall. In all likelihood it will meet the wrecking ball as Chanthaburi begins its slow road to revival. But for the time being it continues to serve as a reminder to the people of Chanthaburi that movie theaters were once an integral part of the urban geography.

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