Monday, June 8, 2009

The nasty past of Bangkok movie theaters

While flipping through a book called Woman, Man, Bangkok: Love, Sex and Popular Culture in Thailand I came across some references to the old wooden movie theaters in 1920's Bangkok. More to the point, reference is made to the Nang Loerg Cinema (AKA Sala Chalerm Thani) which I visited and wrote about on my most recent trip to Bangkok. The author, Scot Barme, writes:

The most detailed and comprehensive information about Bangkok's cinemas during the 1920's comes from Sayam palimen (Siamese Parliament), a column that appeared in the weekly film magazine Phaphayon Sayam...

Broadly speaking, the image of the Bangkok movie houses that emerges from these accounts is one of rampant squalor and anarchic, disorderly behavior. Sanitary conditions and the comfort of patrons were apparently not of prime consideration of the cinema owners. Numerous letters appeared in the columns complaining about the vermin that infested most theaters. The Nang Lerng Cinema, owned and operated by Siaw's Siam Cinema Company, was particularly notorious in this respect. As one writer complained after a visit, "you could see people refusing to sit down on their seats because of the filth, while some of those who did sit down soon began scratching themselves." In the Banglamphu Cinema, another one of the company's theaters, urine flowed freely across the floor and the pungent odor of excrement wafted through the air.
There it is folks; the nasty, nasty Nang Loerng Cinema (AKA Sala Chalerm Thani)

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