Monday, November 29, 2010

The Myo Gon Yaung Cinema - Mandalay, Myanmar

This may sound like a strange thing to write about a movie theater, but the Myo Gon Yaung Cinema has genuinely tragic origins. The tragedy dates back to 1981, when large sections of Mandalay were besieged by fire and thousands of buildings across the city went up in smoke. In 1984 fire struck again, taking thousands more structures to a fiery grave. In both cases, tens of thousands of Mandalayans were left homeless.

Among the fire casualties of 1981 was an old movie theater that occupied the land where the Myo Gon Yaung now stands. Details of this erstwhile cinema hall were hard to come by, but that's beside the point. What's important to note is that the Myo Gon Yaung, in its current manifestation, was built by the State's Ministry of Construction as a replacement for the one lost in the blaze of '81.

The Myo Gon Yaung Cinema: a Mandalay fixture since 1984.

Entrance steps

Poster for the Myanmar film "The Three Brides" hangs from the side wall.

The Myo Gon Yaung was the prototype for two later additions to Mandalay's government-built trio of movie theaters. Each of them share nearly identical designs, differing only in the most minute details. All three are the brain children of one architect.

An usher stands beside the window in the upper lobby of the Myo Gon Yaung Cinema.

Two destructive, city-wide blazes within a few years of each other speak volumes to the severity of neglect suffered by Myanmar's urban centers. With that in mind, I can only muster a tepid 'hats off' to the powers that be who commissioned the replacement Myo Gon Yaung. Not to detract from this wonder of socialist-inspired cinema architecture. It is, after all, a palace of joy to the entertainment-starved denizens of this, my favorite dust-strewn city in the galaxy.

Ticket taker at her post, puppy in arms.


Lastly, Myo Gon Yaung translates to "City Lights;" an attractive and original name for a movie theater, if I ever heard one, but which is blatantly misleading given the irregular supply of electricity in Mandalay. Just take a walk through the streets after dark and you'll see what I mean.
Just for the sake of visual comparisons, here's all three of Mandalay's State-built theaters back-to-back-to-back. Juxtapose away.

The Myo Goun Yaun Cinema, c. 1984

The Nay Pyi Daw Cinema, c. 1990

The Myoma Cinema c. 1998

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