Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Scala Theater - Bangkok, Thailand

Call me naive, prone to exaggeration, or whatever you want, but I just can't help but think that the crown jewel of Apex's movie theaters, the Scala, ranks among the finest operating movie theaters anywhere in the world. In every way the Scala makes the cut. But don't just take my word for it...

Stand-alone movie theaters of this grandeur are hard to come by anywhere in the world these days. The financial input they require to keep them running smoothly usually out-weighs the revenue they generate. In classical economic terms, they're simply not cost effective, standing on land that is more valuable than they themselves are. Movie palaces like the Scala are testament to an era that has by and large been relegated to the annals of history (or blogs like this); architectural eye candy, which in the digital age don't really gel with the ways most people live.

In front of the Scala Theater for the premiere of locally made skate video, Sambai.

The Scala Theater opened on December 31st, 1969, fully equipped with triple-projection Cinerama, 1,200 seats and the Thai premiere of The Undefeated, starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson. Since then it hasn't missed a beat. Apex management has kept up with the times, investing in all the state-of-the-art technology to maintain the Scala's world class and palatial appeal. In fact, it's of such regal standards that the King and Queen of Thailand have hosted charity film screenings there in the past.

Lower lobby, featuring a beautiful vaulted ceiling and a 5 tiered chandelier over the staircase landing.

Looking down from the upper lobby balcony.

But let's put aside the theater's opulence for a moment. Forget the fact that all three of the Apex operations are in a league of their own. There's a very human element to account for why the Scala, Siam and Lido make for such great cinemas. Most of Apex's employees have been working there for many years, with some staying on the payroll for life. That says something very important, I think. This is a company that genuinely cares! They care about their venues, they care about their customers and they care about their employees.

Ticket booth and concessions stand.

Another view of the upper lobby.

A wall sculpture in the upper lobby of the Scala above the entrance to the auditorium. The sculpture is a depiction of the changes in Thai society over the centuries. It is over 10 meters long. The sculptor was a Filipino.



There are a million little teeny boppers out there to fill the seats of the megaplexes in the shopping malls. There's another million slaves to name-brand consumption. As far as I'm concerned, the only brand name worth remembering when it comes to movie theaters in Bangkok is Apex.

Simply the best!

"Scala" means "ladder" in Italian.


  1. I love the Scala. I go out of my way to see the first-run features there, instead of those vile mall multiplexes.

    Most recently, I caught Inglourious Basterds, which was made to be seen in a big old movie palace like the Scala. In fact, it's the only way to see that movie. I don't think I'll be able to watch it on DVD. It won't have the same meaning or the same power.

    That night, opening weekend for the film, it was pouring down rain, a classic Bangkok monsoon. I somehow made my way into the cinema while staying dry, but the streets all around on Siam Square were back up with debris-strewn floodwaters. Most distressingly, the hallway on stage right of the auditorium had a big leak, and water was running down the wall, as if the Scala were crying. I hope they get that fixed soon so the Scala will be with us for many more decades to come, still showing first-run features and having the occasional special event.

    The comedian Nose Udom Taepanich always puts on his stand-up shows at the Scala, most recently doing a string of sold-out performances that were extended. His brother Santi prefers the Apex theaters too, and went to the trouble of hiring a digital projector so he could book a special engagement of his Bangkok Time at the Lido.

  2. I'm currently in the town of Pichit, in the lower north. There's a lone stand-alone left here; abandoned, of course. Yesterday I was in the town of Sawan Khalok in Sukhothai province, where there's a rotting stand-alone. Tomorrow I'm on my way to Kampaengphet, where rumor has there's yet another abandoned giant.

    Your Wiseness, you and the 9 million other residents of Bangkok are very lucky. The vast majority of Thailand outside of BKK isn't so fortunate.

    I hope they patch up that hole.

  3. Hello,

    I have a web site on Cinerama. This page - is a list of known Cinerama theatres in the world. Four from Bangkok are listed but I also see that the Scala was also equipped for 3-strip Cinerama? Were any Cinerama films shown at the theatre? List of Cinerama film titles - . If there are any corrections or additions for the Cinerama web site, let me know.