Monday, November 15, 2010

The Win Lite Cinema - Mandalay, Myanmar

For those of you in an information coma, you should be aware that there's serious cause for celebration over in Myanmar. No, the government has not allocated a quarter of its operating budget to restoring the country's tattered movie theaters. Even I have to admit that that would be insanely stupid. The good news is that Myanmar's most popular political figure and symbol of hope, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been released from house arrest. This move comes on the heels of highly suspect national elections held this past Sunday, November the 7th.

Suu Kyi has been confined by the government to her home for the past 7 years, banned along with the political party she heads (the National League for Democracy) from engaging in politics. Her release is seen as a step forward in a country that has felt the affects of political repression and economic decay for years.

But economic decay doesn't always mean decay in every facet of life, nor is the existing decay absolute. There are, in fact, as has been pointed out about a half dozen times on this blog, a handful of structures which could even qualify as world class - and that's just counting movie theaters. Mandalay's Win Lite Cinema is one of them.

The Win Lite Cinema is set back from 82nd Street inside a small court.
Mother and two sons head to the pictures.

The Win Lite is the older of the two Mandalay theaters operated by the Mingalar Company. Like all of Mingalar's theaters, this one is structurally flawless down to the most minute detail. Dozens of staff are employed to keep it that way.

According to theater management, who very hesitantly and under tight observation allowed me to take some exterior shots, the Win Lite is about 50 years old. That places its construction within Myanmar's democratic interlude experienced between the end of colonialism (1948) and the start of authoritarianism (1962).

During that brief window of progress, various modernist schools of architecture seem to have gained favor with Myanmar's architects. Of the cinemas I surveyed concurrent to the democratic period, art deco and international style architecture were most prevalent. The Win Lite looks as if it has elements of both art deco and the German modernist school, Bauhaus, in its design.

Satisfied customers

A green mesh tarp hangs over the court yard in front of the theater, serving as a sun visor.



The Win Lite Cinema wins big in Mandalay, as the above photos attest to. Apparently it is the favorite theater of the city's well heeled, even more so than the Myoma Cinema of the previous post. Perhaps it's the half-century of provenance that gives it its beloved appeal. Whatever the attraction, being able to see a downtown theater, street-level, vibrant, providing an economy for myriad small businesses in the vicinity, was a total inspiration.

Welcome back Aung San Suu Kyi.

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