Monday, April 26, 2010

Vestiges of the Coliseum Theater - Bangkok, Thailand

About a year ago, I took my first trip to Bangkok with the sole intent of seeking out old theaters. A few days prior to that, I corralled myself in the library, flipping through the foxing pages of old Thai business directories to make a list of as many pre-multiplex theaters as I could find reference to. For the most part, little more than theater names and phone numbers were listed. No addresses. Nevertheless, I set out with hopes as high as the sky that between the later addition sky-scrapers and megamalls a vestigial temple of film might have been spared. No such luck. Every one of the 25 or so listed theaters belonged to the elite first-run theater circuits, occupying prime real-estate in central Bangkok's commercial and financial districts. All but the Apex 3, Bangkok's last first-run stand-alones, are gone.

While on the streets around Phayatai and Ratchathewi I spoke with dozens of shop-keepers, vendors and other ground-floor merchants hoping to get a theater lead. All they could do was point to high-rises, or vacant lots where there once stood what I sought. Names like Hollywood, MacKenna, Athens and Coliseum were mentioned frequently, accompanied often by nostalgic smiles, or reminiscent moments of silence. Once even a burst of outrage, just for show, I think.

The Coliseum Theater, featured today, was built by Mr. Maitree Kitiparaporn, one of Bangkok's more prolific theater builders of the 1960's and 70's. By the 1980's, Kitiparaporn's theater company, known as the Hollywood circuit, was being run by his daughter Pannin. She merged the Hollywood circuit with Apex, creating the Pyramid Circuit from the two. Later Pannin left the theater business and went on open Dream World, Bangkok's first and only full-sized amusement park. The Apex Three at Siam Square - Lido, Scala and Siam - are all that's left of a once-vast movie theater empire.

The above photo depicts the entrance arch and marquee to the now-demolished Coliseum Theater. It was taken by an American veteran stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam/American War, Robert Jazdzewski. A hand painted billboard above the marquee shows Aurthur Penn's 1967 romp "Bonnie and Clyde."

Though we can't see the Colisuem Theater itself, it's still a nice little capture of a time and a place.


  1. Anonymous said...
    where was it located ? There use to have a beer brewery/ entertainment plaza called the Coliseum right before Suk 40.

  2. I don't think Coliseum the night club used to be Coliseum the theater. Having said that, I don't know exactly where this theater was, but I believe somewhere in the Phayatai/Ratchatewi zone. That might be totally off, however.

    Hopefully one of the Bangkok theater aficionados will write in and put me in my place (Peep, Nanthawat, ชว่ยดว้ย)

  3. I believe this is where the Coliseum once located.Someone else pls confirm this.,101.491373&sspn=20.447409,28.256836&ie=UTF8&hq=%E0%B9%81%E0%B8%A2%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%A2%E0%B8%A1%E0%B8%A3%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%8A&hnear=&ll=13.757289,100.519967&spn=0.010004,0.013797&z=16&iwloc=A

  4. Yomarat intersection. I think you're right, Nantawat. It was just down the street from the Paris and the Ambassador theaters.

    Thanks so much for that.

  5. Mr.Kasem Poolworalak
    -KrungThepRama at BangSue
    -ChanCinema at Trok Chan, YanNaWa
    -TaWeePolRama at Trok Chan, YanNaWa

    Mr.Chamreon Poolworalak
    -KlongToeyRama at KlongToey
    -ChaoPraya Theatre at PraKaNong
    -Century at Victory Monument
    -ThaiRama at WongWienYai
    -PaHolYothinRama or Pahol Theatre at SaPanKwai
    -PetchRama at PratuNam , PetchBuri Rd
    -PetchKlongJan at BangKaPi
    -Petch ChokChai at ChokChai4 , LadPrao
    -Petch Pattanakan at Pattanakan
    -Metro at PetchBuri Rd
    -McKenna at SapanHuaChang
    -LadPraoRama at LadPrao (Union Mall)
    -Petch Prannok at Prannok Intersection
    -LamThongRama at KlongToey
    -UdomSuk at BangNa
    -MGM at RamKamHaeng Rd
    -Holiday at PraKaNong

    Mr.Maitree Kitipraporn
    -Coliseum at Yommarat Intersection.(now is the building of Thailand Transport Portal)
    (left building of the marquee in pic - now is hotel)

  6. The biography of Charoen Poolworaluk I have, อดีตเจ้าตำนานราชาโรงหนัง: เจริญ พูลวรลักษณ์ is wrong. It claims that เจริญ built the Coliseum Theater. That's two to one in favor of Mr. Maitree. I'll make the necessary changes.

    It seems like Chamroen had more theaters than his brother Charoen.

    Many thanks for that invaluable list, Peep.

  7. Great post. One picture about Coliseum Theater from 1971: