Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Thida Cinema - Yangon, Myanmar

A blast of color towers above as you approach the Thida Cinema. If it's not clear at this point that you're about to temporarily disengage from reality then you must be looking at the ground, or else have no intentions of going to the movies. Only a blind person could miss the Thida; beauty among beasts; the man-made Wonder of Upper Kyeemyin Daing Road.

A boxy facade brought to life by multicolored patterning - in the Thida's case, achieved through the use of a tile mosaic - seems to have been a hallmark style of Burmese theater architecture in the 1950's. This is the fifth movie theater I've encountered with these characteristics that was built during the independence era. Have a look at the previous post featuring the Nay Pyi Daw and Shae Saung cinemas for visual comparisons. Similarly, I came across a photo of another Yangon theater, since demolished, which employed this kind of design. There's another functioning one in the city of Magwe, as well. Possibly more out there. Enough to brand the style as distinctly Burmese. Perhaps the work of a specific architect?

45 degrees

Under the awning

Showing today: "Rock Star In-Law"

Movie-goers wait in the lobby.

Encounters of a ticket-buying kind

Ticket booth flora

At 10 AM on a Sunday, the Thida staff was busy preparing for its first screening of the day. A few dozen morning movie-goers sat quietly in the lobby, waiting for the auditorium doors to open. The crowd was mix of older folks enjoying retirement and teenagers enjoying the weekend. Several young men responsible for security at the Thida were hesitant to allow photographs of anything besides the exterior at first, but gradually eased up on their prohibitions as I pleaded my case. When the manager arrived, all laws were repealed and an invitation to document extended ipso facto.

The ticket hawking trio

Smiling sales woman

The manager, as it turns out, a Mr. Aye Myint of Yangon, is a veteran of the local film industry. Prior to his now 10-year-long stint as manager of the Thida, U Aye Myint was the chief cinematographer for a movie production company. While documenting the Thida his dormant talents were resurrected en force as he began calling the shots as to where and what to photograph.

U Aye Myint in side wing exterior of the auditorium.

Movie in progress

Ownership of the Thida is held by a private company, the details of which I was able to find little about. Apparently they produce films as well as exhibit them, though whether or not they own any other theaters is unknown. Either way, the Thida Cinema is likely their flagship.

U Aye Myint in his office

The word Thida is the Burmese version of Sita, the name of Rama's wife in the Hindu-Buddhist epic the Ramayana. Though of religious origins, the Ramayana has long been performed as a play throughout the Theravada Buddhist world. The choice of naming a movie theater after one of the story's chief protagonists, then, links this ancient artistic tradition with the modern art of motion pictures, even if the coming of cinema has put countless Ramayana troupes out of work since its inception.


  1. Fascinating, thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for posting. I grew up on the street left to the Cinema, not pictured in the photos.It was called Pine Street then(1977). I would spend every weekend there during my child hood. My family knew the owner of the Cinema then. Many happy memories.

  3. Thank you for your remarks.

    It's a shame that such a striking building is no longer part of your Pine Street neighborhood. I'm sure whatever replaces it will not have nearly the same cultural importance.

  4. Hey, Your blog is a very high-quality search. Thanks for sharing the information with us it was very informative.