Thursday, December 17, 2015

Photo sale for Burma theater survey

For those who don't know, The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project is mostly a solo effort. All the documentation, research and advocacy for the preservation of select stand-alone theaters in SE Asia, save for a few video collaborations and some sporadic yet critical translation services, is the output of a lone operator.

But while the work itself is mostly the act of one, the financial means to do it has come from elsewhere. About 75% of the research costs for this project over the years were provided by two Thai foundations; The  James H. W. Thompson Foundation and The Thai Film Archive. Without their generous support this work would have fizzled out long ago.

Funding is essential to the continuation of this work. Field trips to document as many theaters as possible are time consuming and costly, and cannot be done feasibly while working a full time job. The race against time is also a factor. Invaluable images and data would have been missed if I had to wait it out for elusive grant money to come through. Stand-alone movie theaters, remember, are not being preserved in Southeast Asia. Quite the opposite.

While I search for that ever elusive institutional sponsorship to extend this project throughout ASEAN, I'm making an attempt to raise funds on my own for a final expedition to Myanmar. To that end, I am holding a very unique and extremely limited photo and ticket sale.

Over the years I have amassed a number of vintage tickets from some of the theaters I've visited. These tickets, like the theaters themselves, are extremely rare. To the collector or enthusiast, these are genuine pieces of history. 

Offered up in this sale are my only two original tickets from the Mansruang Theater (since demolished) in Phrae, Thailand, along with a signed and numbered photograph of the theater. $135 each.

Only 2 tickets from the Mansruang Theater

In addition to the Mansruang 2, is 6 tickets from the New Chalerm Uthai Theater in Uthai Thani, Thailand. This theater is exceptional for both its Art Deco styling and for its historical clout. The New Chalerm Uthai was built by the fascist government of Field Marshal Plaek Phiboonsongkram in 1943. 

6 tickets with corresponding signed and numbered photo for $110 each.

6 tickets from the New Chalerm Uthai Theater

Help support the documentation of Burma's dwindling movie halls by purchasing one of these limited edition photos and ticket.

All sales include international shipping and handling costs. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Aurora Theater - Betong District, Yala, Thailand

The story is well told by now. Hackneyed even. On the verge of becoming a bore.

Its backdrop varies in just about every case, but the actors and circumstances remain the same. If you've read these scripts enough you can predict the plot: The movie theater is built; it serves an important social purpose for its time. It's charming and much beloved. Over the course of time things start to change. Technology changes, society changes. The theater loses its relevance, just like any earthly thing that cannot adapt to change. Then, after a gradual decline or a rapid development in technology, the theater goes out of business and is soon forgotten. The end result is either a vacant mess with a colorful past, or a repurposed curiosity. Otherwise it's torn down. End of story.

The differences are in the details, of course. The Aurora, for instance - which, for the record, falls into the "repurposed" category - seems to be of a similar age and style of a few other theaters that were encountered in Thailand's deep south. One of them, the Luna Theater in Yala City, has a similar cubist facade with grid-like windows ventilating what would have been an upper lobby and office areas. Textbook mid-century International Style, tropical iteration.

Locals in Yala pegged the Luna's development to a Singaporean builder/owner. In the case of the Aurora, with its consonant look and English moniker consistent with celestial bodies (Luna, Aurora), it could very well have been the same owner - a Straights Settlement entrepreneur easing in on the Thai movie market. Without having done any deep research, my guess is that it was part of a Singapore-based chain with its own distribution arm looking to expand its reach. But speculation is just that. Hopefully somebody will tie it all together someday, confirm conjecture or dispel myths.

The very International Style Aurora Theater - Betong, Yala

Original tile work in the lobby, which has been turned into a cheap department story.

Stairs once leading to balcony seating.

The story of stand-alone movie theaters in Thailand never lends itself to the Hollywood ending. Save for one pending case, the protagonist never finds redemption, salvation or revenge at the story's end. 

The Aurora Theater is no exception. Like hundreds of other Thai movie halls, the Aurora is now just another anonymous building with a slightly grander gauge, occupying a prime plot of the town's geography. More specifically, the building's lower level been changed into a cheap department store called Betong Plaza, while the upper level is now a go-go bar. So while the Hollywood ending is predictably absent for the erstwhile theater, a "happy ending," so to speak, does indeed figure in. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Two day portfolio sale

For two days and two days only I am listing two of my remaining five Movie Theaters of Thailand photo portfolio at the reduced price of $200 dollars (including shipping). That's 33% off the regular price.

That means for $200 you'll be mailed a hand crafted photo portfolio consisting of 20 original photographs of stand-alone movie theaters in Thailand, printed on handmade mulberry paper.

All sales will go directly towards future research to document the rapidly disappearing stand-alone movie theaters of Southeast Asia.

Only TWO sets will be offered at this special price, so act fast. Sale ends September 16th, 2016.