Saturday, April 25, 2009

The EM-Cinemax Theater - Beung Kan, Thailand

The EM-Cinemax Theater is the last operating single-screen theater in all of Nong Khai province; a living small town relic that was well worth the 2 hour bus ride from Nong Khai city to the town of Beung Kan. It is also one of the few (if not the only) unair-conditioned theaters in the entire country.

Half theater, half sauna, all joy.

Yes folks, I watched a noontime showing of Jackie Chan's latest, "The Shinjuku Indicident" in a theater that was about 33 degrees celcius (90 fahrenheit). The indutrial sized fans mounted within the walls did a great job of making a lot of noise and blowing the hot air around, but it didn't do anything for the temperature. I was really sweaty.

The other distinguishing features about the EM-Cinemax Theater is that the restrooms were only accessible from the theater auditorium, something I have never seen before. They're usually located in the lobby or foyer.

The orange and black foyer.

The sign on the rail of the second level reads Chaemchan Films. This is the film distribution company which supplies parts of Thailand's Isan region with current movies. The Chaemchan company also owns the EM-Cinemax Theater. Presumably Chaemchan Films is local to the town of Beung Gan, as a sign in front of the theater advertises that Chaemchan Films can be hired for showing movies at private events.

Concession stand and ticket booth all in one.

Showing today:The Shinjuku Incident.

Interesting to note the EM-Cinemax has 4 showings per day. That's the most for a Thai single-screen theater I've found yet. Usually there are only 2 showings (12:00 and 8:30) with the chance of an afternoon special.

Meet Nok! Nok is the concessionaire, ticket seller and ticket taker all in one. I'm reasonably sure she is the manager, as well, though she didn't say as much. She did tell me that the EM-Cinemax Theater opened in 1980 (younger than me) under the name of the Saengchay Theater.

So, if you find yourself in Nong Khai en route to Vientiane for a Laotian gettaway or a visa run, why not take a little detour to Beung Gan and check out the EM-Cinemax Theater. Tickets are only 40 baht a piece. But remember to stock up on water at the concession stand. It's HOT inside!

(On an aside, while we're making reference to Jackie Chan, there's an article in The New York Times about a recent statement that Chan made which has caused some ruckus in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Have a read.)


  1. What a contrast from the notorious practice of having an air-conditioned theater and running the AC on the only setting available -- arctic blast.

    But having air-con would probably break this place.

  2. Yes, I think any further investment in this place would do little to increase viewership. I was there on a Saturday afternoon and there were 3 people in the theater including myself. Beung Gan is a very small town.

    My guess it that the owner runs the place at a loss, propped up by his film distribution business, just out of his love for the theater.

    My hat goes off to that.

  3. Hey! I am owner of EM Cinemax (not M Cinemax, edit the name if you can)

    I will tell you something about my business but in Thai.

    1. ติดแอร์ไม่ได้ เพราะด้วยขนาดของโรงหนังที่ใหญ่มาก(เนื่องจากเป็นโรงเก่า ไม่ได้สร้างขึ้นมาใหม่ แต่ทำการปรับปรุงภายหลัง) ไม่คุ้มกับค่าบัตรชมแม้จะขึ้นราคาค่าบัตร เพราะว่ารายได้โดยเฉลี่ยของชุมชนที่นี่ถือว่าน้อยมาก
    2.ขอบคุณที่ให้คำแนะนำ ติ ชม สถานที่และการบริการ
    3.ทางโรงภาพยนตร์ให้บริการทั้งหมด 4 รอบ เพื่อผู้บริโภคสามารถมาชมตอนไหนก็ได้ใน 1 วัน ไม่ต้องรอเฉพาะตอน12.00 หรือ 20.00 แต่รอบ 20.00 ถือเป็นเวลาที่มีคนชมมากที่สุด (และไม่ร้อนที่สุดด้วย)
    4.ด้วยราคาบัตร 40 บาท/ที่นั่ง ถือว่าราคาถูกที่สุดในประเทศ ณ ขณะนี้ แต่ก็สามารถให้บริการด้านแสง สี เสียง ได้คุ้มราคาค่าบัตร 40 บาท ลูกค้าที่มาใช้บริการประจำเข้าใจดีในเรื่องของโรงหนังติดพัดลม และสามารถยอมรับกับสภาพอากาศที่ร้อนเนื่องจากคนไทยมักชินกับอากาศร้อนอยู่แล้ว
    สุดท้ายนี้ ขอบคุณคุณ Projectionistที่นำเรื่องราวบางส่วนของโรงภาพยนตร์ EM Cinemax มาให้ผู้ที่สนใจในเรื่องของธุรกิจโรงภาพยนตร์ได้รับทราบค่ะ

    Miss T.S.

  4. Miss T. S.,

    Firstly, please accept my apologies for leaving out the "E" in EM Cinemax. I've made the necessary corrections in my post.

    Moreover, it is a great pleasure to still be able to see films in older theaters like yours. They are very important places in the history of Thailand and around the world. Ultimately, that's why I do this project.

    Also, many thanks for writing in and giving us those details on your theater. It's completely understandable about not installing A/C. Many of the old movie theaters in Thailand that I have seen did not have A/C. It begs the question, "what did people do before A/C?" My answer is that they were stronger, more durable people than the average human of today and they simply knew how to enjoy life without the constant need for climate control.

    Also I think it's great that you have 4 showings per day. It increases the potential viewing market for you and - as you mentioned - it makes it more convenient for the customers (more options).

    One thing I'd like to know a bit more about if you don't mind is "Jaemjan Films." I hope that I am correct in writing that it's a film distribution company. If you have the time, could you give a few more details on "Jaemjan Films?"

    (Sorry for not responding in Thai, but it would take me about a month to type what I just wrote in English in 2 minutes).

    Many thanks.

  5. The Projectionist,

    It's OK for me that you responded in English. If you would like for more information, you can ask me.

    แจ่มจันทร์ฟิล์ม(Chamchan Film) เป็นธุรกิจหนังกลางแปลงที่จังหวัดอุดรธานี เปิดให้บริการมานาน 33 ปี ร่วมทำธุรกิจเกี่ยวกับโรงภาพยนตร์ในปี 2007 ที่อำเภอบึงกาฬ จังหวัดหนองคาย

    ธุรกิจหนังกลางแปลงคือ การให้บริการจัดฉายภาพยนตร์ตามที่มีผู้มาว่าจ้างไปฉายหนังตามงานบุญ เทศกาลต่างๆในราคาเหมารวมต่อคืน แล้วทำการไปฉายตามที่ตกลงกันไว้

  6. Thanks Miss T.S.. I'm going to translate what you wrote for followers of the SEAMTP who cannot read Thai.

    Miss T.S. wrote:
    Chaemchan Film is a company that shows movies for hire in out-door settings. It has been providing movie screening services for 33 years. In 2007 the business expanded to include a movie theater (EM Cinemax) in Beung Gan district, Nong Khai province.

    Chaemchan Films can be hired to show movies at religious ceremonies, festivals and other events on a per-night basis.

    There you have it folks! If you are in the Isan region and want to screen a movie in the great out-doors at your event, look no further than Chaemchan Film - your source for out-door movie projection.

  7. One more question Miss T.S.:

    Do you know any other small towns in northern Isan have an old theater? It doesn't matter whether it's still open or not. I'm pretty sure I missed a lot while I was traveling in the region.

  8. I know a little bit like that:

    Kumphawapi district (อ.กุมภวาปี จ.อุดรธานี) Udonthani, "Sermsuk" was name of it.

    Thabor, Nongkhai. (อ.ท่าบ่อ จ.หนองคาย)
    "Thabor phapayou"

    Wungsaphung, Loei (อ.วังสะพุง จ.เลย)

    Pakchong, Nakhonratchasima (อ.ปากช่อง จ.นครราชสีมา)

    Ban pai, Khonkaen (อ.บ้านไผ่ จ.ขอนแก่น)

    Pratai, Nakhonratchasima (อ.ประทาย จ.นครราชสีมา)

    Mueng Phon, Khonkaen (เมืองพล จ.ขอนแก่น)

    That's all that I know about the old theatre.

    **Thanks for your inform my business ^_^ "

  9. Miss T.S.,

    That is a great help! I hope that I can meet with you the next time I am in Udon or Nong Khai. You can contact me at my e-mail address any time.

    Until then, please continue to bring Isan the joys of film.

  10. ไม่ได้มาตอบนานเลยค่ะ อยากให้ทีมงานของคุณ ไปดูเวปไซต์นี้ค่ะ เป็นเวปไซต์ที่เพิ่งมาสัมภาษณ์ที่โรงหนังของดิฉันเมื่อสองวันที่แล้ว ถ้ามันจะเป็นประโยชน์กับพวกคุณบ้าง

  11. Thank you Miss T.S. You're always a big help.

  12. By chance, I passed on 25jan2017. The cinema place is now closed, but not vandalized. Seating still in screening room (door was open, but so dark, I could see only after taking a picture with flash). If you are interested in pictures I took contact me.

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