Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Det Udom Mini Theater - Det Udom, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Just over 30 kilometers south of Ubon city lies the little country town of Det Udom. Geographically speaking, the town is pretty basic, consisting of one main street running perpendicular to a feeder highway which leads to the provincial capitol. Businesses on main street cater to the surrounding farming villages, because this, my friends, is rural Isan, where if you haven't moved to the big city for wage work, you're scratching out a living from the soil. Fortunately for the Det Udom townsfolk and villagers there are movies to be watched on a big screen when the work is done, thanks to the Det Udom Mini Theater.

Up the rainbow staircase to the auditorium

In past decades, country theaters like the Det Udom Mini could be found in nearly every district of Thailand. Even prior to the advent of rural electrification, small town entrepreneurs were prone to build movie theaters and project the coveted form of entertainment via power provided by a diesel generator. Areas deemed too poor or remote to support a permanent theater were serviced by the ubiquitous traveling cinema companies, which would set up open-air movie screenings and charge customers a small fee to get in. From what I've been told, most districts in Ubon Ratchathani watched their movies the open-air way. But the people of Det Udom have long been luxuriating in a theater of their own.

Theater A

Teenage ticket queue

Ticket seller

The Det Udom Mini Theater is actually fairly new, dating only the late 80's/early 90's - the last generation of stand-alone movie theaters to be built in Thailand. According to staff and locals, it replaced an old wooden theater that occupied its ground for years prior.

Designed with the future in mind, the Det Udom Mini has two auditoriums and two screens, allowing for double the viewing fare at the same time. But only theater "A" is used regularly.

Interior action

This truck rolls around town and the surrounding villages announcing the daily film fare. Now Showing: "Who are You?"

After the movie

I was able to catch a noon showing of "Who are You...," which would have been a recommendable movie had it not been for the screwy ending. Otherwise it was a strong attempt by the Thai film industry at psychological horror, a sub-genre which gets scant attention among local producers.

As for the attending crowd, of the roughly 20 attendees there were 3 adults - a reflection of movie-going demographics nationwide. When questioned about how business has been, the Det Udom Mini's caretaker said that the theater was covering its costs. "We're not exactly raking it in," he jibed, "but considering it's now the dry season, when lots of locals leave to take up seasonal work in the big cities, we're not doing bad. Business will get better come the rainy season when everybody returns home."

There are only a handful of country theaters still operating in Thailand. Most of them are in Isan.


  1. Enjoy reading your great stories of movie theater and those great photos

  2. I'm very glad to hear that. Thanks for your support.