Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Tun Thiri Cinema - Pyay, Bago Division, Myanmar

Being pushed from Magwe's towns and cities, one after another, was reason enough to depart the dust choked division, with its xenophobes and zealous police force. We caught a bus south to the biggest city of western Bago Division - a bustling town hugging the banks of the Irrawaddy called Pyay.

There couldn't have been a better town to conclude January's Myanmar movie theater search than Pyay. Its collection of ornate buildings from the colonial days onward, crowning a city plan of gridded streets, offered visual intrigues at ever turn. The townsfolk, moreover, were nothing but welcoming, in stark contrast to the inhospitality we'd just departed in Magwe.

But the cherry on top of all Pyay's goodness is its lone cinema hall. The last of a purported four that once enriched the city's cultural life, the Tun Thiri Cinema is a surviving gem from an era when movie theaters were built with pride and high craftsmanship. Locals dated it to about 1960.

Typical of Myanmar movie theaters built during the independence era, Art Deco was employed in the Tun Thiri's design.

Through the trees.

Facade angles

Out-door ticket windows.

The ticket booth in the lobby. Each opening and its corresponding ticket seller represents a different price ticket. 500 Kyats, 800 Kyats and 300 Kyats.

Though clearly showing its years, the Tun Thiri Cinema has an elegance to it that is fairly common among Myanmar movie houses, of which the stand-alone variety reigns supreme. Their prevalence, however, is likely to decline as regional and global economic integration sends ripples of change through the country. In Myanmar, the age of the shopping mall is closing in, with multiplex monotony right on its heels. In the below passage, the Myanmar Times has detailed the openings of two new multiplex mini-theaters in Yangon, an event which could have grave implications for the country's stand-alones:

"WHEN Junction Maw Tin Shopping Centre opened last year in Yangon, on the corner Anawrahta and Lan Thit streets in Lanmadaw township, the facilities included Junction Cineplex, consisting of two small cinemas.

Taw Win Centre, which opened on Pyay Road in February, followed suit with three small cinemas of its own. Two are already showing Myanmar movies on DVD, with plans to open the third, equipped to show 3D movies, in October.

Thus has the modern mini-theatre, capable of holding no more than 200 audience members, been introduced to Yangon." FULL ARTICLE

Proscenium gold

Audience abstractions

View from the balcony during showtime.


Manager and ticket booth


The Tun Thiri's trusted "theatersmith," a staple of the business for many years.


The Tun Thiri Cinema closes out the catalog from my most recent trip to Myanmar - a theater which was indeed a grand finale to a great expedition. All said, there are still many towns and cities in Myanmar which I have yet to explore, a task I relish to undertake in the months ahead. But I have a sneaking suspicion that those theaters yet unseen will remain so into the foreseeable future. Hopefully they will be alive and well when the chance to document them comes again.


  1. My family used to live in this theater from the opening of the theater until mid 1970. The pictures of inside the cinema are very good. I appreciate you writing about the article and having the high quality pictures for the world to see. The best movies, such as James Bonds movies, were shown at this cinema.

  2. We used to live on the 2nd floor at the right side. There were (4) movie theaters in Pyay and Tun Thiri was the best theater. I remembered my school teacher often asked me to buy movie tickets. I stayed there until 1977 and we came to U.S. My best memories of my life. Thank you for writing about this theater.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for writing. Amazing that you used to live inside the Tun Thiri Cinema. A truly beautiful old theater.

      I would love to hear more about your memories of this theater. Is it possible to contact you by e-mail? If you have the time and energy to conjure up more memories, please e-mail me at