Friday, October 5, 2018

The Myoma Cinema - Letpadan, Bago Region, Myanmar

Letpadan had not been on my radar until early 2016, when, while at a photo exhibition in Yangon, I saw some shots of university students clashing with police there from the year before. Those images were the first I'd heard of the town, leaving me with an impression of a contentious little place full of disaffected youth and brutish cops.

Later on, a few older Myanmar friends mentioned that Letpadan was once a fairly important trading center, if not the primary town of Myay Latt - Myanmar's version of the English Midlands - an agriculturally rich area running northwest from Yangon up to the lower Dry Zone. Any place with that kind of clout, I reasoned, was bound to have had some movie theaters. 

Those suspicions were confirmed during last February's "Theater Hunt." Ledpadan is indeed home to two old movie theaters - The Myoma and Aung Mingala cinemas. Both share a similar architectural footprint and stand directly next to each other just off of the city's main traffic circle. Together they comprise what must have once been the commercial center of the town, with their broadside girth dominating the the low rise townscape.


The Myoma Cinema stands in the background on the left. The freshly painted Aung Mingala Cinema stands on the right. 

From the exterior, The Myoma Cinema has the appearance of a brick and mortar dignitary with a skin condition. One that could be easily remedied with a scrubbing and fresh coat of paint.  Nevertheless, The Myoma radiates an old-school charm despite its crumbly worn facade. 

The theater itself, which was located on the second and third stories of the building, has been closed for over a decade. But the shops that occupy the ground level portion of the structure, each situated in its on little nook behind the arcades, make the dormant theater lively even in its under-utilized state.   


The Myoma Cinema, dating to 1959, one of the more interesting buildings in Letpadan.


In an offhand way, The Myoma and other similarly designed movie theaters were the forerunners to the contemporary multiplex-shopping mall combo that make so much of urban Southeast Asia into an air-conditioned nightmare today. Retail space on the lower levels, movie theater on the top. Sadly, the new architecture of convenience tends to lack the human scale charms present in buildings like The Myoma, which are slowly being lost across the region with each passing year.

I can only image the time capsule of an auditorium, with its wood-worked balcony and hand-crafted ornamentation, all boarded up on that second level, but nobody seemed to have the key for it. Lucky for me, the Aung Mingala Cinema next door had a well preserved second level, which I was kindly granted permission to photograph and has an auditorium which I would guess approximates the Myoma's. Guess you'll just have to wait for the next post to see. 



6 comments:

  1. By chance* I came across a non-operational cinema in Bago town. From outside, I wouldn't have guessed the building used to be a cinema. Location 17.335126,96.477448 I have pictures from inside, contact me if you want them.

    *I was eating in a restaurant, and the way to toiled led through the former audience, which is now used for storage.

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    1. I imagine that I've seen it, but still curious. Write me at my email. sea.theater@hotmail.com

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