Thursday, December 3, 2009

BMC Dao Khanong Cinema - Bangkok, Thailand

The BMC Daokhanong Cinema stands on Somdet Prajao Taksin Road, Soi 42. Its street-side sign and marquee rise up three stories, yet blend unobtrusively in with the adjoining buildings, making it an easy landmark to miss if you're not paying attention. The 40-plus year old theater stands inside a commercial plaza the likes of which I have written about extensively in past posts.

A young guy crosses the grounds of the Dao Khanong Sales Center, home to the BMC Dao Khanong Cinema (left side of picture) and the Fair Price Fresh Market 16 (center of photo).

To the right of the theater there's an open air-fresh market. A sign on the market's wall reads: Fair price fresh market 16, underscored by Department of Interal Trade, Ministry of Commerce. Whether that means this is a government administered market or not, I do not know. However, in my conversations with the manager of the BMC Daokhanong I was told that the market is owned by the same person that built the theater.

The cinema and the fresh market, a prolific combination throughout Thailand during the 20th century, now headed for the history books. But I'll tell you what! For those content to believe that movie theaters like this are outdated money-pits for their owners, take this one as a lesson to the contrary. The BMC Dao Khanong averages 100-200 patrons per day on week days and 300-400 on both Saturday and Sunday. If those numbers stay consistent throughout the year, then at 40 baht per ticket the theater is grossing roughly 3 million baht annually. That's about 85 thousand USD. Nice chunk of change, right? Ok, so a portion of that money goes to the film distribution company. Distributors usually take a high percentage, depending on the movie, but at second-run theaters like the BMC Dao Khanong the rates are more favorable for the exhibitors. After all, the movies aren't new anymore. Just like any other product, the price drops over time.

Let's say that the movie distributor takes a 40 percent cut from each ticket sold at the BMC Dao Khanong (that's really a wild guess, so my apologies if this ends up being way off). That's 16 baht per ticket and one million, two-hundred throusand baht out of the theater's gross annual ticket sales, leaving the BMC with a whopping one-million, eight-hundred thousand baht after the cut. Assuming a third of that goes to pay employees (manager, projectionist, ticket taker, ticket seller, concessions seller, cleaner) and a generous allotment of two-hundred thousand baht for miscellaneous repairs and improvements, that leaves the owner with a cool million baht profit to play with, which is no small salary in Thailand. Concession sales off-set the taxes.

Honey man takes a rest on the front steps of the BMC Dao Khanong Cinema. Honey man pedals around town on his bike, selling honey that he harvested and bottled himself. On the back of his bike he's got a big slab of honey comb.

Two double features are advertised on a poster display in the lobby

The lobby

Though the 40 baht ticket price is tied for the cheapest I've encountered in a Thai movie theater (Thonburi Rama and EM Cinemax also charge 40), don't let that be a marker of the BMC Dao Khanong's quality. Sound and projection are state of the art. The seats are old school, that is metal-framed, deep pocketed and extremely comfortable. No, you can't raise the arm rest to get closer to your date, but that never stopped me from getting busy back in the day. Both auditoriums are outfitted with stadium seating.

Climb the stairs to the BMC Dao Khanong's two auditoriums and choose between two sets of double features showing side by side.

There is one draw back in terms of the BMC's stand-alone stature: there is no massive auditorium and screen. When it first opened in the late 1960's, it was a first-run theater with a giant, single screened auditorium. That cavernous feel enhances the movie watching experience, in my humble opinion. Some time in the 1990's they built a wall through the center and made it into two smaller auditoriums. At least we get more variety!

Relax on some comfy benches between features in the lounge. Discuss the film you just watched with your friends while waiting for the next one to start.

Waiting for the next show


My inforation regarding the BMC Dao Khanong Cinema came courtesy of Somsak, pictured above. The native of Chanthaburi Province has been managing the theater for the past 5 years, now. From what I could see, Somsak runs a tight ship. Business is brisk these days, testament to the drawing power of a quality old movie theater with good management. If only these places weren't so few and far between.


  1. Wish film festivals would be held in places like this, rather than the mall cineplexes.

  2. I'm with you, WK. It can be done, too. Just have to get the attention of the right people.

    In next months issue of Bioscope, a Thai language film magazine, they're running an article about the SEA Theater Project. I did my fair share of pitching the viability of the surviving stand-alones for special engagement-type stuff. Hopefully somebody will step up to the plate.